In a word; Outcomes


There’s one word you’ll hear over and over at Better Fundraising For All;

= = = >  Outcomes

“Outcomes” are what you and your organization produce.  An outcome is a specific, measurable change in the world.  A new art installation on the corner of 5th and Jackson is an outcome.  A person cured of leprosy is an outcome.  An orphan in a loving home is an outcome.

Donors love outcomes.  They love concrete evidence that their gift to you made the world a better place.

When a person makes a donation to a nonprofit they “buy” an outcome.  But they don’t get anything tangible in return for their donation, do they?  For example, a donor could spend $25 a month to buy 3 pounds of freshly roasted coffee delivered to their door each month.  It’s easy to see what the outcome is; every month great-smelling, great-tasting coffee arrives on their doorstep.

So what is a donor buying with their $25 monthly donation to your nonprofit?  They are buying an outcome, a specific change in the world.

Most nonprofits screw this up in one of two ways:

  1. The organization doesn’t deliver an outcome to their donor.  Don’t be one of those.  And the best nonprofits — the nonprofits that donors give gifts to again and again — find a way to make their outcomes as real as the coffee.  They describe it so well that their donors can literally picture and smell — even anticipate — the outcome they’ll pr0duce with their next gift.
  2. The organizations delivers a Processes instead of Outcomes.  That’s like delivering a coffee grinder instead of coffee.  Their letters and newsletters (and websites) talk in great detail about their programs, or who their partners are, or the methods they use to work with their beneficiaries.  But the vast majority of donors are more interested in knowing about the outcome their gift will produce (or has already produced).  Was the art installed?  Did the homeless mother get safe shelter?  Does the orphan now have a home?

Here’s the easy way to remember this principal; donors fund outcomes, not processes.  Write it down on a sticky note and paste it on your monitor.  So if you’re talking to donors about your processes, stop it.  Instead, talk about the outcomes that will happen when a donor gives a gift and you’ll raise a lot more money.



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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