“Negative” fundraising works, but do your donors ever get good news?

It is widely believed in fundraising circles that donors respond to our stories of success, that they want to join success. And that stories of need, of problems, are repellent to most donors.

I don’t know where that belief comes from.

Not from reality, I’m sorry to say.

Check out this post on the Bloomerang Blog, which asks (and then answers) the question, Do Negativity And Alarm Really Raise More Funds?

Negative events impact our brains more than positive events. Psychologists refer to this as negative bias, and it can have a powerful effect on your behavior, your decisions—even your giving.

Worse, studies show that we’re more likely to perceive negative news as truthful. Since negative information draws greater attention, many may believe it has greater validity. This might be why bad news seems to garner more attention.

This is confirmed by many years of testing and experience.

But there is a critical need for positivity and celebration in fundraising. Donors need to know that their donations are put to good use and result and great things happening.

That’s what thank-you messages, newsletters, and all kinds of donor stewardship are for. In fact, donors should be encountering more happy-ending success stories in their relationship with you than the “negative” stories that activate their giving.

One of the top causes of our overall poor donor retention rate is this: Too many donors don’t get the news that they’re giving matters.

And too much fundraising is ineffective in the first place, because it doesn’t place action before the donor in the first place: It just tells them, We are doing great work! So donate now!


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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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