What fundraising is about, really

Here’s why the discipline of branding so often suppresses fundraising results: It emphasizes the wrong thing. It’s all about your organization, not about the donor.

(Of course, that’s branding done wrong. But it’s the way it so often plays out in real life.)

Branding as a discipline came to us from the commercial world. Where, it turns out, they have exactly the same problem: Bad branding that’s all about the awesomeness of the product or company.

The Monday Morning Memo captures this challenge in the commercial world at Your Customer and Their Life:

Bad advertising is about your product. Good advertising is about your customer and their life.

Don’t talk constantly about your company and your product. This just makes your ads sound like ads.

It takes an extra step of the imagination to see what your organization means in the life of a donor — someone who may not be a direct beneficiary of your work.

But it’s a necessary step.

Good fundraising does that every time. It answers the questions donors are actually asking about you:

  • Why should I donate rather than buy something I want?
  • Why should I even pay attention to you?
  • What’s in it for me?

You have superb answers to those questions. But none of them have to do with your organization’s awesomeness. They all have to do with the donor and her life, her values, her needs.

Raising money is showing donors what your work means in the donor’s life.


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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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