Does your fundraising make sense? Wrong question!

It doesn’t make sense!

That’s the cry that has crushed a thousand fundraising campaigns that might have raised a lot of money the good works of the world.

If you demand that your fundraising completely “make sense,” you are going to hit the wall very soon. And you are completely out of step with all forms of human persuasion, which seldom make sense — ever!

Look at this piece from my mailbox from CARE. Here’s the carrier envelope.

Notice the little peel-off sticker.

CarestickerOE

Why is it there? What does it do? Maybe we’ll find out by opening the envelope and looking at the reply device:

CarestickerRD

Okay, we are to take the sticker from the envelope and put it here on the reply device.

But wait: That doesn’t make sense!

No. It doesn’t. I don’t know whether this is a successful piece or not, but I won’t be surprised if it is. Here’s why:

  • The sticker makes the piece different from the other envelopes in the mailbox. That is as critical for the survival of any piece of direct mail.
  • The sticker is a small action the would-be donor can take. And someone who takes a small action is that much more likely to take the larger action of donating.
  • The sticker and the place we’re asked to put it contains key elements of the fundraising offer. While you’re looking at the sticker and wondering what it’s about, you’re reading what CARE wants you to read!

Does the sticker play an active role in the donation getting put to work? No.

If a donor neglects to transfer the sticker, will the gift be rejected? Of course not.

Does the whole concept make sense? Not really.

But it probably helps some donors move from inaction to action. And that’s why it works.

Very few human decisions are made completely rationally. We do most of the things we do at least in part for reasons that don’t make sense. If you insist that your fundraising must “make sense,” you’re choosing to bring a marshmallow to a gun fight.

The question you should ask about anything you see in fundraising isn’t Does it make sense? but: Is it likely to move donors to give?

That is a very different 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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