Fundraising “Decision Razors”


Over the weekend I was introduced to the term “decision razor” – a rule of thumb that simplifies decision making.

Turns out that “Occam’s razor” is one of several decision “razors” that allow you to “shave off” possibilities you can ignore, steps you don’t need to take, or discussions you don’t need to have…

I bring this up because decision razors allow Fundraisers to make better decisions faster. They allow Fundraisers and organizations to “shave off” valuable time and potentially bad decisions by applying one core principle.

Here are five of my fundraising decision razors. They’ve proven helpful and successful over the years.

Razor #1

If a tactic or approach is effective for the donors of several organizations, chances are it will be effective for your organization’s donors.

When I suggest a new tactic or approach to an organization, I often hear, “Oh, that would never work with our donors/donors for our sector/donors in our country.”

In truth, it’s the opposite; if the tactic or approach works for a lot of other organizations, it’s more likely it will work for yours.

Razor #2

When deciding whether to add another piece of fundraising to donors, go ahead and add it unless you have numerical data that shows that previous additions resulted in reduced net revenue or retention rates.

If you don’t have numerical data, you’re flying blind. And if your organization is having trouble with this issue, read this.

Razor #3

Little of what you write will be read.

Most donors will scan – not read – your donor communications.

So you should create your materials knowing that most people won’t read the whole thing. This results in a style of communication that gets the point quickly and highlights the ideas that are most important to the donor – which is proven to work GREAT in fundraising communications.

Razor #4

Most donors care more about the beneficiaries or cause than they care about the organization itself.

Creating donor communications that are mostly about your cause and/or beneficiaries, and less about your organization / programs / staff / beliefs / etc., will generally raise more money.

Razor #5

The amount of communications you send to donors is a signal about how important your work is.

Fundraise a couple times per year? Must not be that important.

Fundraise regularly? Run a campaign that includes two letters, 10 emails and social? That’s one of the things that signals to a donor that “this is important.”

I know it’s hard for smaller organizations to make the time to create donor communications, but that doesn’t make this razor untrue. (And we created Work Less Raise More specifically to combat this problem – we make it crazy quick and easy to create effective fundraising pieces.)

So… are these “decision razors” helpful to you? If so, leave a comment below and I’ll share more of them!


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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