What fundraisers should give up for Lent

Today is the beginning of Eastern Orthodox Lent, a seven-week period before Easter during which many practice abstention from various things and other spiritual exercises. Most faiths have similar practices.

Funny thing about Lent is that whatever your spiritual goals, you also make discoveries about the things you abstain from. Things like:

  • You don’t need them as much as you thought.
  • Sometimes life is notably better without them.

That’s why I think nonprofits should consider giving up a couple things for Lent. Just to see what life is like without them.

Specifically, I recommend giving up these two things:

Bragging

A lot of nonprofits adapt the commercial marketing practice of building their message around the superiority of their brand and their product. They beat their chests. They focus on themselves. They brag.

Bragging isn’t good fundraising. Donors don’t give because of your many excellent qualities — though they demand that you have those qualities. Donors give because of their own excellent qualities. That’s what fundraising should be about: reminding donors who they are, and why your cause fits their portfolio for changing the world.

When you stop bragging about yourself, you’re free to forge the bond between you and the donor. That’s when fundraising takes off.

Educating donors

If your donors knew more about you and your cause, they’d give more. It doesn’t follow that the way to increased giving is to bludgeon donors with facts and educate them into “getting it.”

Giving is not a rational act. It’s relational. When you try to educate donors into giving, you are at cross-purposes with this important fact. Instead, build a relationship. Some donors will seek “education” about your cause as the relationship deepens. Others won’t. But both kinds of donors will give more because of the relationship — because you respect them and are aligned with them. Not because you filled their heads with more and better facts.

It’s not too late to start your organizational Lenten abstention. You’ll see meaningful improvements if you give it a try.

(This post first appeared on February 27, 2012.)


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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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