‘Pre-Existing Condition’


Your donors have what’s called a “pre-existing condition”…

They cared about your beneficiaries or cause before your organization came into their life.

Three examples:

  • Say your organization is a library.  Your donors cared about books, literacy and your community before they had even heard of your library.
  • Say your organization helps a tiny village in Ethiopia.  Your donors cared about kids, and people having enough food & an education before they had even heard of your organization or the village.
  • Say your organization provides access to activities for people with disabilities in the Tri-state area.  Your donors cared about people with disabilities, and about everyone being able to participate, before they heard about your organization.

Knowing this, what should your fundraising to individual donors primarily be about?

Should it primarily be about your organization?  Should it focus on your programs?  Should it be about what the organization has accomplished in the past? 

No!  Your fundraising should focus on the values and interests that caused your individual donors to pay attention to your organization in the first place.  (Note that I’m not talking about your comms to Foundations and other donors for whom your programs and your effectiveness are core necessities for them to donate.)

If you look at your appeals and e-appeals and find that they talk primarily about your organization… for instance, if you’re sharing the names of your programs and how they work… you could be raising more money from individual donors.

When we help organizations see their donors’ pre-existing conditions – and then change the organization’s fundraising to talk about what the donors cared about before they met the organization – the organization raises more money.

When you create your fundraising, don’t think, “We need to inspire our donors to give to our organization.”

Instead, think, “Let’s talk about what our donors already care about, and the difference their gift will make.”


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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