Are you confusing would-be donors?

I hate to say it, but there’s a chance you are.

Because a sizeable portion of all nonprofits have utterly confusing ways to describing what they do. They aren’t trying to be that way. Most of the people in the organization probably think their self-descriptions are crystal clear and admirably motivating.

Here’s a helpful exercise I’ve adapted form a post at MarketInsite (a blog for commercial start-ups and investors: Effective storytelling starts with plain English.

I’ve modified it so it’s aimed at nonprofits that want to connect with donors, which is quite a bit like companies that want to attract investors:

Find an average [donor] who has never heard of your [nonprofit]. Show them the “above the fold” portion of your website, or a copy of the “about us” language from one of your press releases for approximately 45 seconds, to simulate how long the typical [donor] will spend perusing the same.

Wait about five minutes — to ensure that they are not just parroting back what they read — and ask them to explain to you in their own words what your [nonprofit] does, and why it’s interesting.

It can be a stunning reality-check.

But well worth it for your ability to reach real donors.


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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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