Is your fundraising getting enough complaints?

If your fundraising never generates complaints from donors, it’s not working at full strength.

There’s a strong correlation between complaints and success in fundraising. Because any time you grab someone’s attention and put a clear and urgent action in front of them, you potentially cause discomfort.

This is especially true of nondonors — people who never or rarely donate to anything. Strong fundraising can put them in a place of real cognitive dissonance: You’ve made it clear giving is the right things to do. But they can’t, or don’t want to. To escape the discomfort, they can change their mind and give, wait for the feeling to pass, or blame the message for making them feel lousy.

That’s why so many complaints come from nondonors or those who gave just one time long ago.

Complaints from donors usually have a different quality. It’s not so much that your message causes them pain, as there’s something about your message that isn’t working for them.

Complaints from donors are important. You should engage with them and tell them the truth about why your fundraising is the way it is. This typically leads to a better relationship with the complaining donor, who now has deeper connection and insight.

Just don’t re-engineer your messaging to pre-emptively avoid those complaints.

Anyone can carefully craft their fundraising so it avoids complaints. That avoidance torpedoes fundraising results.

Want your fundraising to be more effective? Remove fear of offending people from your list of requirements.

It’s that simple (assuming you also do a good job of making the case). Complaints will trickle in, but revenue will pour in. Try it. It works.


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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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