47 things worth knowing about fundraising

  1. Fundraising is not about you; it’s about your donors.
  2. Fundraising is about what, not how. It’s also about why.
  3. Fundraising is difficult for most people. Impossible for some.
  4. Fundraising is always an appeal to the emotions.
  5. Fundraising is weird, counterintuitive, and sometimes frustrating.
  6. Bragging is not fundraising.
  7. Arguing is not fundraising.
  8. Educating is not fundraising.
  9. Deciding for donors that they aren’t going to give is not fundraising.
  10. Committees kill fundraising.
  11. Organizational silos kill fundraising.
  12. Boards that micro-manage kill fundraising.
  13. Data makes fundraising powerful. But data in fundraising makes it stink.
  14. Writing is not the most important fundraising skill. Strategic thinking is much more important.
  15. Photos are powerful, but you are not required to use any photos in fundraising! No photo at all is far better than a photo that tells the wrong story.
  16. Common sense isn’t a good guide to effective fundraising.
  17. Don’t over-think. Also, don’t under-think.
  18. The purpose of fundraising is to raise funds, not to be a creative outlet or source of recognition for your staff.
  19. Typos are not the end of the world in fundraising. Unless you get an address, phone number, or URL wrong.
  20. The best way to understand fundraising is to be a donor.
  21. There’s no such thing as “donor fatigue.” The real danger is “fundraiser fatigue.”
  22. Plan ahead, but always be ready to seize an opportunity
  23. The calendar counts. If you have a time of year when donors give more (and you do), do more fundraising then.
  24. Accepting “free” creative or media can end up costing you a lot of time and money.
  25. You need to evangelize fundraising within your organization.
  26. If you like it, it probably won’t work.
  27. If your boss likes it, it really won’t work.
  28. Ugly design works in fundraising.
  29. Old-fashioned design works in fundraising.
  30. Cleverness, wordplay, and visual puns never work in fundraising.
  31. Focus on the basics; getting the boring details right is what makes the biggest difference in fundraising.
  32. People can’t tell you the truth about their motivations. If you ask them what will most likely get them to donate, they’ll give you false information.
  33. Describing your cause in terms of big numbers just tells donors there’s no point in giving.
  34. Your donors aren’t paying nearly as much attention as you are.
  35. Donor service is your secret weapon — or your downfall.
  36. Birds sing, bees make honey, donors donate.
  37. Concentrate on lifting revenue, not lowering cost.
  38. Say thank you quickly, powerfully, and specifically.
  39. It’s very hard to get people under 40 to give, and even harder to get them to give again.
  40. Young donors are people under 60.
  41. Your website and your direct mail should say the same things.
  42. You can’t use fundraising to change what people believe.
  43. Donors love you when you give them the chance to make a difference.
  44. The more a donor gives, the more they love you.
  45. Failure is a necessary part of success.
  46. Your donors are not as unique as you think.
  47. Repetition is good in fundraising. Repetition is very good.


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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.