How to make your fundraising relevant [Book Review]

Book Review: The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon

Artofrelevancebook

One of the main causes of weak fundraising is that it’s irrelevant to donors. Fewer give, because the ask doesn’t connect with their lives in any way they can perceive.

It could be superbly written, masterfully designed, a great call to action, smart segmentation … and still fail because it’s not relevant to the people you’re talking to.

There are two main types of fundraising irrelevance:

  1. It’s of little or no interest to the donors you’re hoping to connect with. This is usually a failure or mismatch of audience to offer. You’re talking to the wrong people.
  2. It could be of interest to the donors, but the way it’s presented fails to connect with them. This is a failure of messaging.

#2 is the sad one. It should work, but it doesn’t, because the organization has failed to reach out beyond their own mindset. It’s very common in fundraising, a top reason for poor results.

That’s why you should read The Art of Relevance.

The book is not (directly) about fundraising. It’s written for arts and culture organizations, especially museums.

These organizations struggle big time with the knowledge gap between themselves and their donors. The people who work there are experts. The donors are not. So the insider jargon that requires years of specific training to understand sails right past the donors. It’s opaque and boring to them.

That’s arts organizations. But as I read the book, I found crystal-clear messages for fundraisers in all sectors.

Because there’s always a knowledge gap between us and our donors, and we always struggle to bridge that gap … we’re always prone to churning out irrelevant messages that aren’t good at raising funds.

Thinking about relevance can help you change that.

Here’s how the book puts it:

To be relevant, we need to cultivate open-hearted insiders. Insiders who are thrilled to welcome in new people. Who are delighted by new experiences. The greatest gift that insiders can give outsiders is to help them build new doors. To say, I want you here — not on my terms, but on yours.

You might be surprised that it’s about your heart. Why not your brain? You need to be smart to excel, right?

Well, no. When your heart is open — that is, you have an emotional connection and empathy with those you want to move to action — you will be much better at seeing and saying what they’re looking for. What they understand. What they care about. You’ll also build a personal bias toward asking them what they’re seeking. And paying close attention to their behavior — even when you don’t really like their viewpoint.

Because the truth is, as the book says: “You cannot assign relevance by fiat. People choose for themselves what is relevant. You can’t dictate it from on high.”

You know your stuff better than your donors do. You know what they “should” care about. And when you make forcing them to care about your cause the same way you care about it, you are wasting your time and theirs.

But when you tune into what is relevant to them, you are on the road to great fundraising.

Don’t feel bad if it’s a struggle. It’s not easy. But start with an open heart and a willingness to learn … and you are on your way.

This book is a start.


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog