How (and why) to give donors permission not to donate

Give donors “permission” not to donate.

I know that may seem odd, because they clearly have that permission whether you give it or not. And most donors, most of the time (including your best donors) exercise their right not to give.

Still, when you give that permission, you recognize their autonomy and put a decision in their hands. That shared, out-in-the-open declaration of their autonomy can change the situation: your message can move from fundraising that might be relevant, but probably isn’t to something more like fundraising that deserves my consideration.

That’s huge.

They can still say no, but “yes” is suddenly on the menu.

Here are some ways to give that permission:

  • I know these are hard times, and if you are not able to give right now, I understand.
  • If now is not the right time for you to donate, that’s okay. Give when you can.
  • Please don’t feel obligated to give. The enclosed address labels are my gift to you. Whether you donate or not, they are yours, and I don’t want you to feel any guilt or obligation.

It’s not some kind of sneaky mind-control. And it’s not going to double or triple your response rates.

But it can help some donors take your offer just a bit more seriously.


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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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