When you love the fundraising .. your donors won’t respond

How many times has this happened to you: While working on a fundraising appeal, you are filled with an unusual energy. You end up creating a real masterpiece, something you’re proud of.

And then it bombs. Doesn’t work at all.

It’s happened to me many times. The appeal you love is the appeal that doesn’t work.

Pamela Barden has seen it too, and written about this frustrating phenomenon at A Tale of Two Appeals: The One You Want to Write Vs. the One Donors, Prospects Want to Read:

… there is one important thing everyone involved in the process of creating a fundraising appeal has to remember: You are not the target audience. What you think or feel doesn’t matter. What matters is what the person being asked to make a donation thinks and feels. Will he or she respond because of that appeal, or will the carefully written words and cutting-edge design go straight into the recycling bin?

The more you like it, the less effective its likely to be.

Get used to it, because that’s the way fundraising is.

The best thing you can do is train yourself to “like” qualities you know to correlate with response. You might say, “This is really corny and old-fashioned. Love it!” That would be a step toward fundraising wisdom.

The next best thing is to treat your own sense of like as a counter-indicator of success: “I love it. I’ve done something terribly wrong!”

This is another reason fundraising is hard. You have to turn off that inner voice. Because it’s telling you nothing of value.


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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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About the blogger

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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