The strange myth about pastel colors: Don’t believe everything you hear!

One of the first things I learned about fundraising at my first fundraising job was this:

Avoid pastel colors.

My boss, the executive director of the small nonprofit I worked for, told me on my first day. He’d heard it from some marketing guru.

If the advice sounds odd, the reasoning behind it is even odder: Every woman has a particular pastel color that she hates. So no matter what pastel color you use, you’re alienating some of your donors.

It could be true, but I doubt it.

First, every woman hates a particular pastel color sounds a lot more like a stupid rumor than a verifiable truth. But let’s put that aside:

The main problem is, the hypothesis isn’t testable. Think of it: There are dozens of possible pastels, each hated by a small percentage of women. You’d have to test every color repeatedly to find which colors were not responded to by which women. If your mailing list were in the tens of millions, and you didn’t have anything more important you needed to know, you might be able to test this. I doubt anyone ever has.

So let me just say it: Some dude made this up! (And it was definitely a dude, amiright?)

Anyway, hating a color doesn’t mean someone won’t respond. There’s a lot of evidence that donors are more responsive when the message makes them uncomfortable. So if it were true that all women hate specific pastels colors, they might be more responsive to those colors.

I’m not telling you this because I think you need to liberate pastels hues in your fundraising. The fact is, hot, bold colors work better most of the time in most fundraising situations. (But not all!)

The point is this: Don’t believe everything you hear.

There are a lot of bogus beliefs floating around our profession. When you hear one, ask for the facts. If there are no facts, be cynical. Don’t let fanciful stories dictate how you raise funds!

(This post first appeared on January 15, 2016.)


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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.