Your organization is NOT as unique as you think it is!

I hear this all the time: Your fundraising advice doesn’t apply to us because we are different.

I can virtually guarantee that not only is that belief not fully correct, but it’s holding you back!

The Guidestar Blog points out the problem with it, at Your Group Isn’t Unique — and That’s a Good Thing:

The obsession with uniqueness masks a troubling train of thought. When followed to its logical conclusion, it sounds something like this: Because we’re different, the rules don’t apply to us.

The Guidestar post zeroes in on governance issues. But it’s true about fundraising issues too.

In my experience, every nonprofit is unique … in minor and unimportant ways.

Let me show you some of the ways almost nobody is actually unique:

  • Your donors are not more sophisticated than all other donors to the point where normal fundraising “won’t work” with them.
  • Your audience may belong to a very specific niche that requires all kinds of specific approaches. But they are not completely different from other human beings.
  • The genius of your founders or leadership do not change the rules about how you connect with donors.
  • Your mission is not unlike all other organizations’ missions in the entire world. There are meaningful differences between different cause types — saving puppies is different from supporting a museum — but someone has figured out most of what you need to know to succeed!

It would be pretty boring if all fundraising was exactly the same. Here are some ways you are probably different from others:

  • Where you operate makes a difference. You could be raising funds in a country where the postal system isn’t well developed. That likely means direct mail is not the viable fundraising tool it is in much of the world. Local conditions like this can be game-changers — for good or for ill.
  • If you and your donors are confined to a specific location, that will have a lot of impact on what and how you do fundraising. A large and expensive market like New York City or London creates different conditions than a small market.
  • Your target audience might be so small — because of the narrowness of the niche or the population of your geographic area — that fundraising is more difficult and expensive.
  • The nature of your work is complex and/or abstract. There is a fundraising solution to this, but it takes extra work to find it!

There is a form of uniqueness that you might be suffering under. Well, it’s not unique; it’s a problem for quite a lot of nonprofits:

  • You have poor leadership. Your board and/or other leaders refuse to do effective fundraising, because they believe their own gut instincts over knowledge about what works. And they often do this under the delusion that We are unique.

If that’s your uniqueness, just know that you are not alone!


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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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