Don’t snub donors with the Myth of Self-Sufficiency

Do you need your donors?

Then tell them so!

Donors don’t know they’re needed unless you specifically say so. And too many of them have no idea how important they care, because so many fundraisers believe in the Myth of Self-Sufficiency.

The Myth of Self-Sufficiency drives us to make all our messaging about how great we are and how well things are going.

It feels good to talk that way, but it inadvertently tells donors things are fine without them.

Unless you have a funding structure that makes donors unnecessary, tell them you need them. If you need them urgently, if you need them to keep the doors open for the next 30 days, if programs would be cut without them — don’t hide it. Be honest, open, and urgent.

It makes some people in nonprofits uncomfortable to admit their dependence on donors. They think it reflects poorly on their management. Or they might think donors would be repelled by the idea that their giving is critical to the cause.

But donors want to be wanted. Years of experience, including head-to-head message testing, tells me this: An appeal that says, We may have to cut programs unless people like you give outperforms an optimistic message that says Things are great, please join us. The difference is dramatic.

I’ve seen organizations who aren’t willing to admit they need donors caught in a poverty cycle where they never have the resources they need. Because donors believe they aren’t necessary.

So put the Myth of Self-Sufficiency to rest. Go out with some powerful fundraising that tells your donors you really need them!


Comments

4 responses to “Don’t snub donors with the Myth of Self-Sufficiency”

  1. Debbie Clarke Avatar
    Debbie Clarke

    How does this sit with a more-anti-racist decolonising style of storytelling which a lot of charities are moving towards now, where donor is no longer the hero or central protagonist.

  2. Debbie Clarke Avatar
    Debbie Clarke

    How does this sit with a more-anti-racist decolonising style of storytelling which a lot of charities are moving towards now, where donor is no longer the hero or central protagonist.

  3. Debbie, I’m not sure. If the story you tell while asking donors to give excludes the donor, your fundraising is in trouble. But I don’t think it’s racist to tell people their giving makes a difference.

  4. Debbie, I’m not sure. If the story you tell while asking donors to give excludes the donor, your fundraising is in trouble. But I don’t think it’s racist to tell people their giving makes a difference.

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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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