How to do better than the Wikipedia year-end fundraising campaign

If you visit Wikipedia, you’ve seen their year-end fundraising campaign. Here’s one of them:

Wikipediaappeal

What they’re doing right

  • It’s easy to give. The reply is right next to the appeal (I’ve cropped it out to make the appeal more legible). It’s a simple, well-designed form.
  • Repetition. Every time you visit Wikipedia, you get some version of this campaign.
  • Includes a monthly giving option. Always do this! Especially online.

What they’re doing wrong

  • It’s about Wikipedia, not the donor. People give to support something they use and value. Or to put their values to work. Often a mixture of both. That’s why the most successful fundraising focuses on the donor, not the organization.
  • Low anchoring. When you name an amount of money in fundraising, it pulls the amounts people give toward it. So when you throw out $2.75 and $16.36, you encourage people to think about those amounts … well below the $70+ you can normally expect when you raise funds online.
  • Negative social proof. People do what other people do. So when you say that 98% of Wikipedia readers don’t respond, you’re making it clear that not giving is the normal thing. It would be far better to talk about the many, many people who are giving: Social proof that giving is something people do.

Wikipedia straddles two fundraising propositions. It’s a service people value and may be willing to voluntarily pay for, like the arts or public broadcasting. It’s also a cause: free information, not influenced by commercial interests. If you value that, you should support it. The fundraising should speak into both realities.

It should also speak more closely to the realities of what motivates donors to donate.

Wikipedia, if you’re listening, drop me a line!


Comments

6 responses to “How to do better than the Wikipedia year-end fundraising campaign”

  1. Christine Pieper Avatar
    Christine Pieper

    Jeff–Great suggestions for how to improve this pitch. As someone who recently responded to the Wikipedia appeal with a gift of $11, I’ll say that the donation form was well done (I gave more than I intended), and the thank you email was personal (and personalized) and genuine. I’d love to hear how well it performed!

  2. Christine Pieper Avatar
    Christine Pieper

    Jeff–Great suggestions for how to improve this pitch. As someone who recently responded to the Wikipedia appeal with a gift of $11, I’ll say that the donation form was well done (I gave more than I intended), and the thank you email was personal (and personalized) and genuine. I’d love to hear how well it performed!

  3. How funny that you wrote this post!. I’ve been talking with my colleagues over the last few weeks about how bad this campaign is.
    One of the most powerful moments for me as a fundraiser was when I realized that people do what we ask them to do.
    Another thing I’ve learned is to talk about how many people DO support your mission… not about the people who don’t. Imagine getting an invitation to a party that reads, “Nobody is coming to this party, but if you come we’ll have soggy tater tots and Coors Light,” vs “This party is rocking! Everyone is here! You need to get your butt over here ASAP!!!” I know which party I’d want to go to.
    I run a public media membership program with 150,000 members, about 50% of them as Sustainers. We constantly encourage people to “join with the 150,000 members all across our community who make the programs you love possible!”
    Don’t get me started on the $2.75 ask.
    I get the feeling that this is fundraising done by non-fundraisers.

  4. How funny that you wrote this post!. I’ve been talking with my colleagues over the last few weeks about how bad this campaign is.
    One of the most powerful moments for me as a fundraiser was when I realized that people do what we ask them to do.
    Another thing I’ve learned is to talk about how many people DO support your mission… not about the people who don’t. Imagine getting an invitation to a party that reads, “Nobody is coming to this party, but if you come we’ll have soggy tater tots and Coors Light,” vs “This party is rocking! Everyone is here! You need to get your butt over here ASAP!!!” I know which party I’d want to go to.
    I run a public media membership program with 150,000 members, about 50% of them as Sustainers. We constantly encourage people to “join with the 150,000 members all across our community who make the programs you love possible!”
    Don’t get me started on the $2.75 ask.
    I get the feeling that this is fundraising done by non-fundraisers.

  5. …yet, they test and test and test, and it works for them. Are they an exception? Are they at the front of a change? Are they right and we’re wrong?

  6. …yet, they test and test and test, and it works for them. Are they an exception? Are they at the front of a change? Are they right and we’re wrong?

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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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