Fundraising starts when you believe in your donors

Do you believe your donors are donors?

That might sound like a silly question, but a lot of people involved in fundraising really believe that donors fundamentally are not donors!

And that makes them afraid to ask. Because fundamentally if you think donors are not donors, asking is awkward, aggressive, and just weird.

So you simply decide it’s better not to try asking, or to limit asking, or to approach giving in an abstract that hides the fact that your ask is an ask.

Here’s a helpful look at this from the Passionate Giving Blog, at The Two Donors Who Can Give Big! It’s about major donors, and how we fear to approach people who have the ability to give a very large gift. Many organizations know they have a couple of those.

But they are afraid to ask them to do what they have the capacity to do:

They don’t believe the donor will give that much. As I heard from one major gift officer once, “I’m not going to ask her for that large of a gift, because it might take money away from the other interests he has.” Wow. [You’re] making value judgments for the donor. It’s NOT up to you to decide what the donor will give. It’s up to you to create a compelling offer that matches the donor’s interests and passions, and present it. Then, let the donor decide.

I think we do this not only with those super-top donors who could give us a million — but all the time with all levels of donors.

We think they’ll hate us for asking. Or maybe they can’t afford to give. Or they’ll just say “no” — which might really mean “later.”

Here’s the thing: Donors want to donate. They may not want to donate to the thing you’re asking, or they may not want to do it right now … or maybe they don’t have time to pay attention to you this week.

And there’s nothing you can do to make them donate.

But there’s one thing you can do to make them not donate: You can not ask. Which means you are deciding for them that they won’t give.

Just ask. Ask well.

And they will decide.

That’s the job of a fundraiser.

Those people who hate your cause and will never give no matter what you say or do? They aren’t on your list — at least not for long! Don’t worry about them. And don’t put donors into that category just because you think they might be there.

Donors are donors. Treat them that way. Ask.


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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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