How some fundraising shows donors that giving is for losers

I was at a lunch event, and when it came time for the obligatory fundraiser, they made the case. The ask went something like this:

  • In 2010, we raised $5,000.
  • In 2011, we raised $4,000.
  • In 2012, we raised $2,500.
  • Last year we raised $2,000.
  • This year, let’s see if we can raise $5,000!

It was social proof that we shouldn’t give. That giving is less important, less popular, less something the community does each year, year after year. Giving to that cause looked like a sinking ship.

The cause was no less important or compelling. But giving to it seemed to everyone in the room like something smart people just don’t do.

That fundraiser was ignoring two truths:

  1. People are inclined to go with the social proof they get. If you tell them “hardly anyone is giving,” they are more likely to join the larger group of non-givers than the smaller group of givers.
  2. Few people are interested in helping you solve your fundraising problem. They want to solve real problems. There are plenty of those for them.

(This post first appeared on May 21, 2014.)

I can help you avoid those errors in fundraising that drive away donations, and I’m available for free 25-minute coaching sessions. Just you and me and your fundraising challenge. Click here to directly schedule an online conversation with me or with Sean Triner.


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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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