Fundraising: Do positive or negative messages work better?

Some fundraisers insist that effective fundraising must put “negative” information in front of donors — that is, a problem for them to help solve.

Others say we should inspire donors to action by showing them positive change that they can become part of by giving.

Which is right?

The Boomerang Blog suggests positive/negative is the wrong question, at How Do You Use Psychological Appeal Persuasion Triggers So They Complement Each Other?

Instead, it’s about giving donors the “gift of joy.”

When you use scarcity … you’re actually tapping into something positive the donor wants. [W]hen you channel the principle of loss aversion, you simply give people a … choice. Go down the one route and something they care about will be lost. Go down the other route and they, and those they help, will win.

If you’re stuck in the positive/negative either/or paradigm, it seems you have to choose between:

  • All good news, which tells donors they aren’t needed.
  • All bad news, which can work up to a point, but isn’t sustainable because it shows them they don’t make any difference.

Not a good place to be stuck.

Instead, fundraisinag should go like this:

  • There’s a problem (a very real and serious problem).
  • But there’s also a solution, and you can be part of it.

Then (and here’s the key that far too many fundraisers don’t do), you show them that the solution is happening. That their giving really did what you said it would do. This second part happens when you thank donors and report back, and it’s key to keeping new donors.


Comments

2 responses to “Fundraising: Do positive or negative messages work better?”

  1. Create positive experiences for your constituents while acquiring valuable insights to help remain agile and quickly address the issues of today, and solve for the challenges of tomorrow.
    CommunityForce! is an all-in-one online form builder and process automation platform that helps organizations in the nonprofit, education, private and government industries do more with their data.
    With our drag-and-drop form builder, robust integrations, and high standards of security and compliance, nonprofit, educational, private and government organizations are able to solve even the most complex data collection and workflow problems.

  2. Create positive experiences for your constituents while acquiring valuable insights to help remain agile and quickly address the issues of today, and solve for the challenges of tomorrow.
    CommunityForce! is an all-in-one online form builder and process automation platform that helps organizations in the nonprofit, education, private and government industries do more with their data.
    With our drag-and-drop form builder, robust integrations, and high standards of security and compliance, nonprofit, educational, private and government organizations are able to solve even the most complex data collection and workflow problems.

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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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