9 critical qualities of all fundraising offers

Not all fundraising offers are equally powerful. That’s not because some are more or less important, but because human beings are not quite rational.

Seth Godin points out that Some problems are easier to sell. Here are his hallmarks of the problems we will always have more success with when we raise funds:

  1. Visible. You have to make sure people can “see” the problem. That means being unsparing and honest.
  2. Non-chronic. Emergencies always raise more money than chronic problems. One solution to that is to focus on the emergency-like impact of chronic problems. The solution needs to be urgent!
  3. Symptomatic. Meaning the problem has symptoms the donor can see and understand.
  4. Painful. The problem clearly needs to be a problem.
  5. In our control. You have to show the donor that their giving makes a meaningful difference. Many donors are haunted by the feeling that the world’s problems are too big to even bother tackling.
  6. Keep us from feeling stupid. Make it understandable to non-experts. A lot of unsuccessful fundraising spends all its time explaining complex situations to donors. That doesn’t work!
  7. Status-driven. Remember, donors give mainly for reasons internal to their own lives. They want to help solve problems, but they want to feel generous and be seen as generous. Make sure you address their internal reasons for donating.
  8. Expensive. I half-disagree with Seth on this one. In my experience, donors respond better to solutions that are an amazingly “good deal.” But I think his point is that when you show the close connection between the problem and the money that solves it, you do better.
  9. Solvable. This is the most important of all. Make sure donors know their gift solves at least a part of the problem. Don’t feed their fear that their giving is insignificant.


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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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