New Competition from For-Profit Companies?!?


Last week after the fires in Hawaii I received four emails raising money to help. Two of the four emails were from for-profit companies.

One was from an outdoor clothing brand with ties to Hawaii. The other was from an eyeglass company that, as far as I can tell, has no strong connection to Hawaii.

Both brands have values that caused them to want to help. Both were clear that the money raised would be routed to foundations assisting in the recovery from the fires.

As more companies begin to figure out what you and I have known all along – that donors like to donate and they feel good when doing so – more and more companies are going to fundraise. Companies are going to see fundraising as a tool to exercise their values and create deeper connections with their customers.

I believe this is great for donors, but bad news for smaller nonprofits.

It’s great news for donors because they are going to be given more opportunities to support causes they believe in and beneficiaries they care about. And the emails from for-profit companies are going to raise awareness for whatever issue is being talked about. These are both good, and will cause an overall increase in giving; more people are going to donate, and it’s going to increase the number of younger donors.

To put it another way, the size of the pie is going to increase.

That said, there’s more competition for the pie. This is bad news for smaller nonprofits because they are now in competition with these companies:

  • People’s inboxes are going to be full of more options to give
  • Some of these companies have teams to create and send emails – they are going to send more emails faster than a one-person fundraising shop can.

The good news for smaller nonprofits is that these companies are going to quickly return to selling shirts (or whatever). They probably aren’t going to “Report back” on the difference the donor’s gift helped make. And their fundraising will most likely focus on big, disaster/systemic issues, and less on local issues.

The other good news is that you can build trust in your organization by talking all year long about your cause and your donors – not just when there’s a disaster.

But it’s good to know that an era of increased competition in donors’ inboxes is arriving.


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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