2 fundraising approaches that are almost, but not quite, magic

There are a couple of fundraising approaches that get a lot of attention these days. Blogs, webinars, and conferences might be giving you the impression these things are fundraising magic.

I’m glad these things are getting more attention. It means more fundraising is better than it was.

But they aren’t quite magic. At least not until you really get them right…

1. Storytelling

Telling a story is a way you make a connection with someone else. Maybe the best way.

Trying to motivate donors by telling them 9 million people need help and that your organization can help 15% in the next 8 months is a fool’s errand. Instead, tell the story of little Rokia who feels endless hunger pangs but can be fed for as little as 36¢.

But when you tell a story, it has to be the right story. It needs to be the donor’s story: Not only about Rokia’s need but how the donor connects with Rokia, and the difference the donor can make and how that fits with the donor’s values.

When you do that, storytelling really does take on magic-like power.

2. Donor love

Fundraising works a lot better when you make it about the donor — her values, aspirations, and mission. And when you treat your donor with respect — letting her know that she and her gift matter.

But that’s not enough by itself. You can be as lovey-dovey as you want … but if you aren’t handling the basics right, the donor won’t be feeling much love. If your database is messy and the donor’s name is misspelled or your record of her giving is wrong. If you’re taking three or more weeks to thank your donors for giving. If you don’t answer the phone when she calls … you’re doing something a lot more like donor bullying or donor snubbing than like donor love.

Either way — when you tell stories and when you practice donor love — you still have to do the other stuff right — the boring stuff like data, postage, readable design, attractive fundraising offers.

The boring old parts of fundraising enable the magic. The magic can never rescue you from the boring stuff.

(This post first appeared on April 11, 2018.)


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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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