Why “Does this sound like us?” is not a good question.


A quick note to anyone who has said or heard the following when reviewing a fundraising appeal or e-appeal:

“But this doesn’t sound like us!”

The next time you hear that – or say it – I want you to ask a different question:

“Will sounding like this raise more money than we normally do?”

That’s what I’d call a better question.  And better questions lead you to raising more money.

“Does This Sound Like Us?” is Not a Good Question

“Does this sound like us?” is one of the first questions people ask when reviewing direct response fundraising (appeals, e-appeals, newsletters, radiothon scripts, etc.).

They believe that “sounding like us” is one of the main keys to fundraising success.

But “sounding like us” is rarely one of the keys to fundraising success in direct response. 

In my experience, “sounding like us” usually causes organizations to raise less money, retain fewer donors, and do less good.

At this point in my career, I’ve probably written a hundred appeals that did not “sound like” the organization yet still raised more than any appeal the organization had ever sent before.

A Better Question

The better question for someone reviewing fundraising to ask is, “Does this sound like successful direct response fundraising?”

It’s hard to get organizations to ask themselves that question.  Many smaller organizations don’t realize that the specialty of direct response fundraising even exists.

Fewer still know or have access to the best practices.

But getting organizations – and anyone who reviews fundraising – to ask “Does this sound like successful direct response fundraising” is the best place to start.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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