How to sell fundraising “sizzle”

One of the most useful things I ever learned from a commercial advertiser was this:

Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

What does that mean? It means sell the benefits, not the features. Sell the spirit of excellence and competition, not just a pair of shoes.

Or, as Angel Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor puts it in NonProfit PRO: Sell the experience, not the features. Because sizzle not steak is just as important in fundraising as it is in commercial marketing. More important, really. Because your donor doesn’t experience any features at all. It’s benefits only.

Here’s how Aloma lays it out:

Features:

  • the solid cement foundation,
  • the sturdy concrete block walls,
  • the windows that open and shut
  • the door that locks,
  • the corrugated metal roofs that protects them from the storms

Benefits (experience)

  • The children no longer have respiratory ailments, because of sleeping on a damp mud floor.
  • The family can sleep peacefully, safe from the worry of dangerous reptiles, insects and rodents.
  • The fresh air from the cross ventilation of windows and doors improves the health of the entire family and reduces the extreme heat of many of our countries.
  • The door that locks protects their few possessions from criminal elements.
  • The sturdy home protects them from the often aggressive elements of weather.
  • They can enjoy the song of the rain beating on the roof rather than cowering in the only dry corner of their previous shacks.
  • Their verandas allow them a small business enterprise where they can buy and then sell to the community.
  • The security of their new home allows both parents to go out and seek work.
  • Employers are much more likely to give them employment now that they have an address and are anchored to the community by owning real property.

That’s how you help donors care about the work you do. That’s how you raise funds.


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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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