When fundraisers make up stories about their donors

When the pandemic started almost three years ago, a story swept through the nonprofit world. Something like this: Donors are scared, hunkered down, distracted; don’t try connecting with them because they’ll react negatively. You won’t raise money, and you’ll drive away donors!

That was not at all what happened. Donors responded to all kinds of causes with unprecedented generosity. For two years or more, we experienced record-breaking results with donors who fully understood the crisis we were all in together.

But not for the organizations who told the made-up stories about terrified and defensive donors. Some figured out their mistake quickly. Others took longer, and are still suffering a gigantic hole in revenue, and unrecoverable loss of donors.

It’s easy to make up stories that fit our own fears and beliefs, and thus ignore reality.

The Veritus Group Blog, at Are You Making Up Stories About How Your Donor Doesn’t Want to Hear from You?

You create a story in your head, that donors don’t like to be bothered. So, you might try once to reach out to them and then wait weeks or months to follow up. This will not work if you want to successfully cultivate a relationship with a donor. Most donors WANT to hear from you.

The scenario here is not specific to the pandemic. It’s about one-to-one major donor fundraising, where you succeed most by understand how much, in what way, and about what your specific list of doors want to communicate.

You can either make up a story where you shouldn’t connect much…

Or you can find out what works for them.

A few don’t want to be bugged. Others are very specific about the ways they can be “bugged.” But most are happy to connect in some way.

With a limited list of major donors, you can find out the right way, one donor at a time. With general donor fundraising, you have to make some assumptions.

And the best assumption to make is this: They want to hear from you, and they want to donate.

Not all of them. Not all of the time. Not about every topic you might have in mind.

But going silent because you have a feeling they don’t want you go bug them is just deciding for them that they won’t get involved.

And you make it so by staying silent.

Don’t make up stories. Learn the reality. That works a lot better!


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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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