5 questions never to ask in your fundraising

Asking someone as question is a time-honored way to strike up a conversation. What about those Seahawks? or Cold enough for you? People ask questions like these because they can work to start a conversation.

I think that’s why so many fundraising messages start with a question.

They shouldn’t. Not usually. Here are some question types that almost never work:

  1. Simple yes or no. Have you ever driven a motorcycle? If the answer is yes, you might have a connection. But if it’s no, you’re off on the wrong foot.
  2. Boring yes questions. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant? A yes to an obvious questions isn’t worth much if it’s a boring answer. Your question needs to evoke passion in some way.
  3. Well, duh questions. Are you against small children dying of painful, preventable diseases? This type of question gets you an easy yes, but probably not much passion. You can sometimes turn this type into a good question if you add an unexpected twist.
  4. Head scratcher questions. Have you ever wondered if our capacity-building initiatives are sustainable? Make sure you’re speaking your readers’ language and framing the issue in ways they care about.
  5. “Can you imagine” questions. Can you imagine carrying your adult child 12 miles just to get basic care for a serious injury? The answer to most can-you-imagine questions is no. And when it’s yes, it’s often a boring yes. Avoid these!

A question that invites an enthusiastic, passionate yes can be a great way to start a message. But it’s hard to formulate these.

If you’re not sure, don’t start a fundraising message with a question.


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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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