What you need to know about the “sameness” of fundraising

Are you tired of fundraising messages that are a lot like all the other fundraising messages?

Join the club.

But before you decide to radically redesign your next appeal, read this post at the Better Fundraising Blog: All Cars are the Same and Unique.

The point is an important one: Cars are “all the same” too. They usually have four wheels. A big window in front and back. A steering wheel and pedals to make it stop and go.

Boring!

But they are that way for a number of reasons. You could “get creative” and make a very different kind of car — but chances are, that car won’t work very well, and/or people won’t want to buy it because it’s too unfamiliar.

Same with fundraising, especially direct mail. It’s easy to complain about the sameness of it. But keep this in mind:

The “sameness” of successful direct response fundraising is a result of 70+ years of trial and error as the fundraising industry identified the common set of
attributes that an appeal or e-appeal needs to have to be functional and successful.

It’s a fair criticism of a lot of fundraising to note a lack of innovation. We need to keep trying new things.

But here’s the disturbing secret about that: Most cool new ideas fail!

And the ones that succeed are usually incremental. They are improvement that really matter, but they aren’t dramatic. It’s things like interesting new types of envelope. New ways to express offers and ask amounts. Smart new approaches to building lists of prospective donors.

The successes are kind of like the shapes, colors, and under-the-hood technical improvements of cars.

If you’re not paying attention, you might cavalierly say boring.

But if you’re a professional who’s paying attention, you know an innovation when you see one. You learn from it, adapt it, and use it as a springboard for new innovations.

And you know when you’re looking at a silly, sloppily-designed new car or fundraising message that isn’t going to work.


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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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