6 things you can do to help your donors respond to your fundraising

Giving to charity is an act of the heart. That’s why filling your fundraising with rational messages about why the donor should give is not only ineffective — it’s counter-effective.

Here’s a useful article form the Stanford Social Innovation Review: Behavioral Economics and Donor Nudges: Impulse or Deliberation? The article looks at two kinds of giving, impulse and deliberate. I’m just sharing the main points from the “impulse” section of the article because that’s the overwhelming majority of giving for most of us:

  1. Make Giving Easy. You might be surprised how often otherwise effective fundraising is torpedoed by barriers to giving. This is especially common online, with giving forms that require a certificate in coding to complete. But it’s just as important in direct mail. If you’re sending a piece of mail to someone, don’t make them write their address on your reply form!
  2. Make Giving Feel Really Good (Immediately). Make sure your ask is very clear about what their money will make possible. And thank them as quickly and vividly as you possible can!
  3. Spotlight Social Norms. Sometimes it’s tempting to invoke some kind of sense of exclusivity by telling donors, “Hardly anyone cares about this issue … you are one of a very few people who understands.” That’s just social proof that it’s normal not to care about your cause! Let them know there are many other people like them who also give.
  4. Prime the Right Identity. Remind what community they are part of when they give. It might be the location where they live or the faith community they are part of or any other group that you and they are part of together.
  5. Emphasize Different Attributes. Give them many different reasons their donation will make a difference.
  6. Bundle Short-term Temptation With Long-term Benefits. Think about what’s in it for the donor. Many of those things have little to do with your cause — it feels good to give. It makes the world a better place for the donor as well as those they help. Don’t forget to mention those things too.


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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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