“Positive” fundraising or “negative” — what works better?

A difficult challenge for many fundraisers is this: They (or someone else in their organization) feel uncomfortable with fundraising that focuses on a need.

The believe showing need puts their organization in a bad light. Or maybe it “exploits” someone to talk about their need. I frequently hear the belief that “negative” fundraising might be ineffective: Won’t donors be more attracted to success than to need?

If you’re avoiding talking about need because you think it might not work in fundraising, let me put your thoughts at ease.

Need-based fundraising is far more effective than success-focused fundraising. It’s been tested thousands of times. There are a few exceptions, but on the whole, you raise a lot more money by presenting donors with a problem they can help solve than by showing them what a great job you’re doing.

If the reason you avoid need is philosophical, consider this post from the Veritus Group Blog: Why Don’t You Just Cover Up the Need?

… don’t get comfortable with the need your non-profit is addressing. It’s not a goal or a value. The need should always “bother” you. It’s a problem that needs a solution.

But you SHOULD get comfortable talking about it truthfully. Why? Because that’s your job. To truthfully and faithfully represent the problem to the donor — and then ask them to help solve it.

Connecting donors with action that makes the world better is what fundraising is about. Avoiding the problems you want them to join you in solving rarely gets you there.


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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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