9 ways to be an anti-donor fundraiser

If you’re in a real hurry to drive your fundraising program into the ground by driving away your donors, here are some common nonprofit practices that can help you along the way:

  1. Write and design to please yourself. If you think success in fundraising is gauged by how it makes you and your colleagues feel about it, you’re missing the boat. And missing your donors. What really tickles your fancy is unlikely to motivate them. What works for them will probably annoy you and your pals.
  2. Have a braggy, self-centered brand. Fundraising that works shows donors what they can accomplish by giving to you. Not what you can accomplish with their giving. That’s a subtle but key difference — one that’s lost in a lot of branding initiatives. They are all about making sure everyone knows how awesome the organization is. Which is amateur fundraising.
  3. Educate your donors. The urge to make them into better people (i.e., more like you) is arrogant and misguided. They don’t want (or need) to be educated. If they’re interested in the finer points about your work, they’ll find out. But most of them aren’t’ interested, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  4. Don’t tell stories. Donors live for stories. They want to be part of stories. If you just hammer away with facts and statistics, you aren’t meeting them where they really are.
  5. Don’t offer your donors choices. Yes, you know what you need. And they probably don’t. But they deserve the power to direct their generosity where they want it to go. The funny little secret about this is that when offered choice, most donors pick “where most needed.” They respond well to be offered choice, but most don’t take it.
  6. Take a long time to acknowledge gifts. If it takes you more than 48 hours to drop a paper receipt in the mail, you are not only being discourteous to your donors, but you are missing the key window for making them feel good about their gift — which means you are losing subsequent gifts.
  7. Send your donors generic acknowledgements, not genuine thank yous. You knocked yourself out to get the ask right. And it worked! The people who gave are the ones who got it. They are special people, critical to your success. They deserve thanks that are specific, clear, emotional, and rewarding.
  8. Never report back to donors what their giving accomplished. You’re constantly asking donors to help you accomplish things. Do they have any idea that their giving “works”? Silence on that matter only feeds their skepticism about your effectiveness. You also miss the key way you build the relationship.
  9. Let your donor data be sloppy. If you have multiple names or addresses for the same donor, you are sending a very clear message: You are not important (and I am not competent).

Be a pro-donor fundraiser: Take my online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s a four-part complete masterclass in the surprising things that work in fundraising. Details here.

(This post first appeared on June 26, 2013.)


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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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