How to solicit your donor’s most precious gift

The most gracious, important, and precious gift any donor can give you is not money.

It’s attention.

Almost everyone can come up with at least a little money they can give away. Hardly anyone has some extra attention to share.

This is the main reason it’s hard to succeed at fundraising.

We struggle to get donors’ attention.

That’s why one of the keys to success is to spend real quality time and energy on outer envelopes, subject lines, headlines — the part of any communication that grabs attention. It doesn’t matter how amazing your offer and your message are if they don’t see it in the first place!

Here are three ways to improve your attention-getting power:

  1. Mystery is (usually) your best friend for getting attention.
  2. Plain, informal, not over-polished is better at breaking through. This is why a plain, no-teaser envelope is so often the top performer in direct-mail testing.
  3. Your next best friend is WIIFM — making it clear to everyone you’re hoping to reach What’s In It For Me. That means a focus on action (the donor’s action), benefits (to the donor), and the donor’s name are all important.

Here are some approaches to avoid if you hope to get attention:

  1. Cleverness, wordplay, abstraction are terrible at getting attention.
  2. Giving it all away (“Hungry children need your help now”) rarely works — except when your fundraising proposition is really amazing, as in matching grant or other form of leverage.
  3. Your logo is not a magical attention-grabbing talisman. It’s more likely the opposite.


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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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