3 weird fundraising approaches that shouldn’t work — but do

I have some weird information for you.

Three fundraising topics that seem like they shouldn’t work.

But they do.

All three seem to violate the spirit of donor-focused fundraising. They aren’t really about the donor and her life and values.

But they work. Quite well, in most cases.

When I first encountered all three of these things, I said, No way!

Boy was I wrong. Check them out:

  1. Fiscal Year End. It doesn’t seem like a promising fundraising topic: Why should the donor care about your fiscal year? Especially when it’s not the same as the calendar year, which is the nearest thing to a fiscal year for most people. Your donation will help us end the fiscal year in a strong position, making it possible to keep helping people in the coming year. I’ve seen it work more times than I can count.
  2. Funding Shortfall. Your fiscal year end appeal will do even better if you face a funding shortfall: We are $90,000 behind where we should be as this fiscal year comes to an end. Your donation today will make sure we don’t have to turn away anyone who comes to us for help. Shortfall appeals really work any time, even apart from fiscal year end. Donors are eager to help when they know they are really needed. A warning, though: If you use this message frequently, it will lose its power. Only say you have a shortfall emergency when you really do!
  3. Annual Fund. This is the weirdest of the three. But labelling almost any fundraising campaign you do Annual Fund works. I know of organizations that do three or more “annual funds” every year. It clearly means something to a lot of donors. Don’t turn up your nose at the humble, yet powerful, Annual Fund.

Fundraising is strange. That’s the best explanation I have for these.


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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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