Why you should not listen to your donors

Here’s a small but very important piece of advice from The Management Centre, at Stop listening to your supporters:

Don’t listen to what donors say — watch what they do and focus on that.

What people say about their attitudes and what they will respond to are often radically at odds with what they will actually do.

It’s not that they’re lying or trying to mislead. They’re most likely really trying to tell the truth. But they (I should say “we,” because it’s not just donors — it’s all of us) have no access to what they will really do in response to your messaging.

Every time — every time — I’ve done focus group or survey research on direct mail or email fundraising, the pieces that actually work are universally hated by donors. “That’s junky. Unappealing. Not attractive. I’d never respond to that.

But in real life, those are the impacts that work best.

It’s great to listen to donors.

But don’t ask them for fundraising advice. They will give you the wrong answers!

If you’re not going to listen to your donors, whom should you listen to? I’ll tell you in my Moceanic online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s a four-part complete masterclass in the surprising things that work in fundraising. Details here. Get $100 OFF by using the coupon code COMMS100 at checkout! Good until Midnight (Eastern US Time) Friday, August 3.


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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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