Please Don’t Make These Two Assumptions

Don't make assumptions.

There are two assumptions that many fundraisers make about their mass donor fundraising. The assumptions reduce how much money they raise and hurt their organizations.

If you stop making these assumptions – you’ll start raising more money right away.

Bad Assumption #1: I’m going to love our fundraising.

When most people start working for a nonprofit, they assume that they’re going to love the fundraising done by that organization. They assume their fundraising is going to make them feel good.

Is that true for you?

Because here’s the thing: some of it should make you feel good. But not all of it.

For instance, your appeal letters and e-appeals should not make you feel good. They should be about the problem that your organization was started to solve. And nobody feels good about that problem. Nobody likes talking about it.

But talking about it – sharing that problem with donors – is what helps your donors remember that the problem is happening and gives you the opportunity to show them how their gift makes a difference.

Newsletters, on the other hand, should make you feel great! Any sort of Reporting – where you’re sharing with donors the powerful changes their gifts helped make – should make you and your organization feel great.

But not your appeals. The only thing that makes most savvy fundraisers feel great about their appeals is that they like sharing with donors a way that the donor’s gift today can make a real difference.

So check your assumption. If you’re creating or judging your fundraising based on an assumption that you’re supposed to like your fundraising, you probably have some re-thinking to do.

Bad Assumption #2: We’ll get to share good news all the time!

This is the second assumption, in my experience, that most people in nonprofits make.

They assume that their fundraising will be full of good news all the time.

They know they have to ask for money – which can feel icky – but they expect to do so by sharing stories of success. So it won’t feel that bad.

This assumption is mostly played out in appeals, e-appeals, and events. It’s assumed that the nonprofit will share stories of success.

But in our testing – and we’re not the only people who have tested this, by a long shot – when stories of success are shared in appeals, e-appeals, and events – less money is raised.

By assuming that good news will always be shared, and that stories of success will be the only type of story that a nonprofit tells – a LOT less money is raised.

Are You Making These Assumptions?

If you are, realizing that you’re making assumptions is a great place to start.

Then, I’d recommend our eBooks on Storytelling and on Asking.

Because if you can take assumptions out of your fundraising – and instead make your content and storytelling decisions based on performance data – you’ll start raising more money right away!


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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