What Wordle can teach us about fundraising

Do you play Wordle?

Good news: This simple, compelling game has something to teach us about fundraising:

Wordlegame

Wordle may look like a guessing game, but it’s actually a knowledge-gathering challenge. You win by paying attention to the fact and applying logic.

It’s the same with fundraising.

If you treat Wordle as if it’s “Guess the 5-Letter Word” and you try words you have a feeling it could be, you will virtually never win: There are far too many 5-letter words, and no matter how smart you are, you have no insight into what words the computer is likely to pick. It’ll get boring fast.

(I have a colleague who claims she once won at Wordle on the guess guess, but she has been unable to supply documentary evidence.)

In Wordle, it’s best to start with a word that has commonly occurring letters. That increases your chance of getting some correct letters. It also helps eliminate letters that you can not use in subsequent guesses. (My starting word is SOARE. That’s a little-used word for a young hawk.)

In fundraising, it’s similar. A body of proven techniques that are more likely to work than random guesses or hunches you might have. Things like specific calls to action, storytelling, longer messages, connecting with the donor’s values and identity.

The next step is even more important in both Wordle and fundraising. Whether you did well or not, you now know some things that work and some other things that don’t work. If you pay attention, you’ll arrive at success pretty quickly.

If you keep guessing based on your hunches instead of the knowledge in front of you, things will not go well.

If you avoid words you dislike (MOIST?) you may force yourself to lose at Wordle. You have to apply logic to have a chance at winning. Same with fundraising; what works is quite possibly something that rubs you the wrong way. In fact, things that annoy you have a slightly better chance of working than not; that’s just something veterans have noticed through the decades.

Wordle will eventually fade and stop filling our feeds with people’s scores. (Hooray!)

Fundraising will keep going.

So keep learning!


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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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