Quick-fix fundraising: it’s how you do the job

Our donors just don’t make the grade. We really need to increase their sophistication about our work. We’ve got to stop coddling them with simple and easy-to-grasp fundraising offers.

That seems to be the message of How can you save a child for £1 a day? at The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, a UK blog about nonprofit issues.

A charity executive sniffs at the “save a child with £1 per day” offers:

The proliferation of quick-fix and cheap solutions, like the ones offered by charities on the street, has led society to accept an inferior standard of development for the most impoverished children of the world. Behind this is a narrow understanding of impact, and the belief that success in the non-profit sector comes from reaching enormous numbers.

I’m not quite sure what an “inferior standard of development” means exactly, but I think he’s saying donors aren’t fully grasping the complexity of programs that effectively help people break free from poverty. That it’s the duty of fundraisers to really draw donors into the full complexity of the work.

There are two problems with that.

First, fundraising isn’t accomplished by explaining how we do our work to donors. Donors give to make wonderful outcomes happen. Not to fund our processes, no matter how good they are. If we change our fundraising to give donors the fuller picture — we’re not going to get very many donors.

Second, our donors don’t need us to educate or improve them. Our donors are just fine as they are. They have no duty or need to become professionals in our work.

Their money is just as good no matter how ignorant or sophisticated they are. It’s pure arrogance (or myopia) to think we need to raise donors to some acceptable level of knowledge before their donations are good enough for us.

I hope your programs and processes are as complex as they need to be. But I hope you’ll leave the processes where they belong. And raise funds with compelling, exciting — and simple — fundraising offers that rouse their compassion.

Let them take care of their own education. That’s not our territory. Donors give because of what we do, and more importantly, why we do it. How we do it is far less important. And ineffective at raising funds.


Comments

2 responses to “Quick-fix fundraising: it’s how you do the job”

  1. “I’m not quite sure what an “inferior standard of development” means exactly, but I think he’s saying donors aren’t fully grasping the complexity of programs that effectively help people break free from poverty.”
    That isn’t what the author’s saying. I think your emphasis on simplicity, which is often very helpful, has perhaps led you to misinterpret the point of this article. The message is more that the fundraising messages that we fundraisers put out there actually have farther-reaching effects than generating donations. The attitudes and perceptions that fundraising messaging produces are real and can have negative impacts on the real work that is carried out, in this case, in the development sector.
    Donors do in fact give partly based on how work is done. That isn’t the same thing as your customary message about educating donors being misguided.
    A bit more nuance please.

  2. “I’m not quite sure what an “inferior standard of development” means exactly, but I think he’s saying donors aren’t fully grasping the complexity of programs that effectively help people break free from poverty.”
    That isn’t what the author’s saying. I think your emphasis on simplicity, which is often very helpful, has perhaps led you to misinterpret the point of this article. The message is more that the fundraising messages that we fundraisers put out there actually have farther-reaching effects than generating donations. The attitudes and perceptions that fundraising messaging produces are real and can have negative impacts on the real work that is carried out, in this case, in the development sector.
    Donors do in fact give partly based on how work is done. That isn’t the same thing as your customary message about educating donors being misguided.
    A bit more nuance please.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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