What makes the donor a hero in fundraising?

Why fundraising is hard: to succeed at it, the fundraiser has to step outside their own head. Which is one of the most difficult things for a human to do.

Because it’s so difficult, a lot of fundraisers create messages that are based on how the enterprise of charity looks from their own point of view. They end up telling what Russell James called the “administrator hero story” in this post at MarketSmart: Always remember – what matters most is the donor’s hero story, not yours.

Here’s the point:

Fundraising messages in the administrator-hero story … will be some form of the following: “Look at how wonderful our organization is. Look at the many great things we are doing. We are worthy. We are inspirational. We are heroes. Give to us.”

That’s logical. Even factually correct.

But it doesn’t work, because to the would-be donors you’re trying to reach, it’s not relevant:

Charity managers often … think that giving is motivated by organizational impact. It’s not. Giving is motivated by the donor’s impact. Donors care about their impact because they care about their hero story.

You can fight that because you don’t like it, but you won’t get around the fundamental reality that people do things because what’s in their hearts and minds, not because you know better than they do.

That approach doesn’t work in any other human relationship. How well do you think a marriage proposal go if you said, “Marry me, because I’m awesome, and you don’t really know what’s going on.”

That’s what administrator-hero fundraising is like for donors. It might get them to admire you, but it’s not going to get a whole lot of action — that is, donations.

Tomorrow: What about all the other heroes?


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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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