Fundraising is a lot more about getting attention than getting money

In major donor fundraising, it’s often said that it’s harder to get the appointment than it is to get the donation.

That’s because in our world, time and attention are more precious than money.

This is true for nearly everyone, not just wealthy major donors: Time is in much shorter supply than money. And time is the currency of attention.

That’s what makes fundraising difficult. Not that people don’t want to give (though that can be an issue), but that they don’t have time to hear you out in the first place. They don’t have time to read your mail or your email. They’re too busy to take your phone call. They skip right past your ad, or your spot.

If you get their attention, the chance that they’ll give skyrockets.

So what does this mean for your fundraising?

Respect your donors’ time

  • Don’t go on about your programs, methods, and superior staff. Tell them what they can do by giving. Talk to them about putting their values into action. Not how awesome you are.
  • Tell them what you want them to make possible through their giving. It isn’t “support us.” It’s “do this wonderful specific action!”
  • Stay on topic.

Compete for their attention

  • Be interesting! Speak to them about their concerns and in their language.
  • Be relevant. Find out what they care about. Not what you think they should care about.
  • Write and design for ease of reading.
  • Reach out frequently enough that you aren’t a whisper in a hurricane.

Make the whole thing feel good and memorable

  • Be specific about the need you want them to help meet. Don’t teach them your philosophy. They’re probably not interested in that!
  • Thank them promptly when they give.
  • Report back on what their giving has accomplished. (If you do this, you’ll be one of very few of their charities that do.)

(This post first appeared on January 25, 2017.)


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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.