What we don’t know about fundraising

Sometimes, you just can’t tell what’s wrong with your fundraising. It’s not working, and you’ve tried every logical fix, but it still doesn’t work.

That’s a frustrating feature of any kind of marketing. Or any kind of communication, really.

Let me give you a non-fundraising example: A while back, an online course I was teaching wasn’t getting the number of registrations expected. We took a close look and found what seemed to be an obvious culprit: the title of the course wasn’t quite right. It didn’t capture the benefit of the webinar in the powerful way that the stronger-selling ones did.

So we changed the course title to make it more like those webinars that got lots of registrations.

What happened? It got worse. Registrations dropped even lower.

We quickly switched back to the old title, and registrations returned to the old, not-so-good level.

Back to the drawing board. Where we still are, as of now. Still looking for the solution.

This happens sometimes in any project where you’re trying to move people to action:

  • Sometimes, no matter how much you know, you miss the mark and it doesn’t work as it should.
  • Usually, you can fix that with the clarity of hindsight.
  • But not always.
  • It takes more time and energy (and often a new set of eyes) to find the real answer.
  • And in some rare cases, you can never find your way to success.

I’m not telling you this to discourage you. It’s just a reality we sometimes face. Fortunately, not very often.

But it points out the basic truth about communications of any kind: The human mind is mysterious. You can know a lot about it and how to connect with people. But you don’t know everything. And you don’t know what you don’t know.

So, as they say, sometimes s*** happens in fundraising.

That’s when you just choose to move on.


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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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