Are your best donors getting your worst fundraising?

Too many fundraisers are sending weak and ineffective fundraising to their major donors. The cost of that is unknowable, but it’s high. I know that because I’ve seen what happens when fundraisers change course and start sending their best work to their major donors.

The problem is, many fundraisers make a series of assumptions about major donors that simply aren’t supported by reality. Here’s what they sometimes do:

  • Soft or indirect asks. They hint around, afraid that being too direct will drive them away. They seem to believe that major donors are sensitive plants who shrink from strong, clear, straightforward language about giving. It’s not so! Want strong response from major donors? Make a strong case!

  • Low emotion. Assuming major donors are “more sophisticated” then other donors and will “see through” appeals to the heart. This is also not true, even though some major donors think that about themselves. Major donors are like everyone else: They give when their hearts tell them to give.

  • Complex/formal writing. Major donors tend to be more educated than others. Many are successful professionals, capable of working with a high level of complexity. But if you think this makes them unresponsive to clear, clean, readable writing, you’re missing something important: While they may be able to handle complicated language, they prefer not to. Like everyone else.

  • Going silent for months. While major donors tend to give fewer times per year than most donors, that doesn’t mean you should “leave them alone” for months at a time. Do you know of any relationship of any kind that goes better without communication? Keep in touch with them.

Here’s the important thing to remember: While major donors are different in some significant ways, they are not all that different from other donors.

In fact, the vast majority of them start giving as low-end direct mail donors. They rise to the level of major donors because that stuff worked for them!

When a donors upgrades to a high level of giving, they don’t suddenly morph into a different kind of person.


Comments

2 responses to “Are your best donors getting your worst fundraising?”

  1. Great blog post! If I had a dollar for every major-gift donor who has told me that they loved the “heartfelt” pitch in an appeal letter or campaign case, I’d be a richer donor myself.
    One of my advancement mentors taught me many years ago that fundraising was/is “both a transactional and an emotional process, and you must approach all donors on both of those levels.”
    Thanks for the validation!

  2. Great blog post! If I had a dollar for every major-gift donor who has told me that they loved the “heartfelt” pitch in an appeal letter or campaign case, I’d be a richer donor myself.
    One of my advancement mentors taught me many years ago that fundraising was/is “both a transactional and an emotional process, and you must approach all donors on both of those levels.”
    Thanks for the validation!

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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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