Why the dignity and professionalism path will kill your fundraising

Fundraising copy is so darned emotional. It swings from sob-story to excitement. It’s not ashamed to wear its heart on its sleeve.

Maybe this emotionalism rubs you the wrong way. It’s not the kind of person you are, and it’s not the kind of organization you are part of.

Believe me, you aren’t the only one asking, “Can’t we do this with more dignity and professionalism?”

Let me save you some time and money…

The dignity and professionalism path will cost you dearly. Countless others have tried it and been burned. Prudent fundraisers have tested professional-sounding messages against emotional ones; they’ve been able to measure the cost of avoiding emotion in fundraising. I have never seen this type of test go the other way.

The core truth is this: The decision to make a charitable gift is an emotional decision. If it were entirely rational, hardly anybody would ever give. The very foundation of charity is emotional. That’s why the emotional approach works — and the rational approach doesn’t.

Get used to it. If you want to raise funds, you have to be emotional.

(This post first appeared on July 9, 2010.)


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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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