Realistic fundraisers: optimistic or pessimistic?

Here’s a question, asked at the Better Fundraising Blog, might seem like an odd question for a nonprofit organization: Optimistic or Pessimistic?

But the answer is important:

If an organization is pessimistic, you think “we don’t want to overwhelm our donors” so you don’t send a second year-end appeal or follow-up emails. Because of this, all the people who didn’t see your first appeal, and all the people who might otherwise give you another gift, don’t get the chance.

But an optimistic organization my think, “Our donors know our work is important, and they love to give.” So you’ll make sure they hear from you and get every chance to donate.

Pessimism shoots you in the foot, over and over again.

Pessimism caused thousands of organizations to go silent during the pandemic. Donors had almost no way to support them during the crisis of a lifetime, while the optimistic donors raised record levels of funding.

Pessimism has led many fundraisers to decide for donors that they no longer want direct mail (or email, or long messages, or clear offers … or any number of things that work) so they scrape by with low response and disconnected donors.

Pessimism makes many fundraisers over-think themselves into inaction, because they can so vividly imagine unlikely doomsday scenarios in their fundraising.

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes you get whacked over the head seemingly from nowhere. It happens. But things also go right.

Choose optimism. You’ll raise a lot more money. It’s more fun, too.


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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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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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