This year I completed my 25th year-end fundraising campaign.
It made me think about the
lessons I’ve learned over the years communicating to donors en masse. Not the ‘one major donor who
likes this’ or ‘the foundation that likes that,’ but when nonprofits are
communicating to everyone on their
So in hopes that this is
helpful, here are a handful of big-picture things that this Fundraiser has come
to realize are enduring truths…
It’s harder than ever to get and
Get great at getting your donor’s attention. And keeping it. This means
more drama and less process. More National Enquirer and less National
Geographic. This means louder, bolder, redder, and not that fricking shade of
light blue that no older donor can see or read.
Mostly it means not
assuming that your donor is going to read anything you send them, let alone the
You have to earn their attention, my friend.
The way your organization does its
work is rarely important
And I mean rarely.
Most organizations, most
of the time, should be talking about the outcomes
their work creates. They should not be talking about how the organization creates those outcomes.
So if you find yourself
talking about your process, the names of your programs, the features of your
programs … rethink what you’re talking to donors about.
fundraising is usually about something the donor cares about, at the level at
which they understand it, and about what their gift will do about it.
This is a hard truth. It
saddens me to say that most small nonprofits never embrace this, and they stay
small because of it.
Most small nonprofits have
‘untapped giving’ of 15% to 25% of their total revenue
This is based on applying
best practices to a LOT of smaller nonprofits. They simply have a lot of donors
who would like to give more money if they are Asked well and then cultivated
It’s a thrill to get to
work with those organizations because the increase is real and immediate.
Most of the barriers to raising
more money are self-imposed
The things that are
holding back small- to medium-sized nonprofits are almost always fear-based barriers:
can’t talk to our donors more, we’ll wear them out”
have to share everything that we do, and that we are good at it”
can’t be so forward, we need to engage our donors/potential donors more before…”
If you’re willing to do
things differently, an experienced fundraiser can help you start raising more
Successful fundraising is a
knowledge issue, not a talent issue
One of the biggest joys of
my life is watching fundraisers become Fundraisers. And it almost always
happens when they internalize an idea – like the ones I mention above – rather
than learning a new tactic.
Donor generosity is amazing
Donors continue to
surprise me, even after 25 years. Their generosity is astounding. They want to make the world a better place. They
are looking for opportunities to do so.
And we get to tap into
that. For a living.
Fundraisers have the best
job in the world.