Is Your Spotlight on Your Stars?


No one at a Broadway play complains when the spotlight shines only on the stars of the play.

The stars are who the audience came to see.

Similarly, no mass donor ever complains that they only hear about some of your programs. You never hear a mass donor say, “I wish I knew everything that organization did.”

Because some of your programs are interesting to mass donors – and some are not.

The Lesson for Fundraisers

The people who put on plays have learned this lesson: they shine the spotlight on the stars. In the marketing. On the stage. In the interviews afterwards.

Many nonprofits could raise more money if they learned this same lesson – figure out which of your programs donors are most interested in, then talk exclusively about those programs.

Unfortunately, there’s a value at many nonprofits that “we need to talk about all of our programs roughly equally.”

That “value” is based in fairness, which is a good thing.

But it turns out that donors aren’t interested in all your programs getting equal time in the spotlight. Appeals that give equal time to all the programs (or even just list all the things an organization does) tend to raise less money.

Donors are simply more interested in some programs than in others.

As fundraisers, our job is to raise money, more than it is to be “fair” to internal stakeholders. Maybe better put, it’s a higher value to raise more money and help more people, than it is to be fair to internal stakeholders. After all, your organization was founded to do as much good as possible – not to ensure everybody at the organization receives equal airtime.

Focus your fundraising – your spotlight – on the programs that most people are interested in. Because that will raise you the most 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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