James Bond Without a Villain


I saw an appeal recently and a thought that popped into my head:

“This is like a James Bond movie without a villain. Everything looks really good, but there’s not anything interesting happening.”

I had that reaction because the appeal I was looking at had no conflict.

Everything was going great for the organization. They’d helped a lot of people.

It’s good to remember that conflict is one of the main things that causes humans to engage. There are no successful movies without conflict. There are no successful stories without conflict.

And I’d argue that almost no fundraising reaches its potential without conflict.

Think about the James Bond movies: when the villain is evil and interesting, James Bond looks extraordinarily capable and successful. When the villain is uninteresting and poorly-drawn, James Bond looks more like a fashion model.

The Bond movies that do poorly at the box office tend to be movies where the villain isn’t particularly interesting. They still make money, but not as much.

And that’s just a movie – which doesn’t compare to the real-life situations that beneficiaries and nonprofit organizations face every day.

What does this mean for your next appeal?

If you want to raise more money, you should tell your donor what their gift will accomplish and also tell them the “enemy” their gift will defeat.

You’ve seen this before:

  • “Send in a gift to fight cancer!”
  • “Your gift will help stop the [opposing candidate] from being elected!”
  • “You’ll strike a blow against the system that holds our kids back.”

Adding the idea that “the donor’s gift will defeat or fight back against an enemy” is a tried-and-true way to increase how much money you raise because:

  • Your appeals are already engaging for people who are inspired by your organization’s work
  • Now your appeals will additionally engage people who are moved by “need” in the world

Think of it like a two-fer for the donor: their gift will do good and help defeat an enemy.

And when you engage more of your donors, and you provide additional reasons to give, you’ll raise 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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