“Remind, Don’t Persuade”

A tree whose leaves have turned orange and red is in a field of golden grass

When I said it, everybody in the room wrote it down.

That’s generally how I know I’ve said something helpful. Here’s what it was:

“At the end of the year your job is to remind, not persuade.”

Here’s why I said that. We’ve done a lot of year-end campaigns for a lot of organizations. We analyze the results of every single one.

When you look at them as a whole a pattern emerges. The successful campaigns? They aren’t beautiful writing that would make Shakespeare weep. They aren’t powerful case statements or success stories.

Here’s what the best campaigns tend to do:

  1. Remind donors of the problem that your organization exists to help solve
  2. Ask them to give a gift before the end of the year to help solve that problem

That’s it. You’re going to want to talk a lot of other things. And that’s fine — as long as the main messages you send — the first things your donors see and read — are the Need and your Ask for a gift.

You see, you don’t have time to persuade. In November and December, your donors are moving FAST. Your donors love it when your organization is clear about what you want the donor to do and how their gift will help. Because your donor is also getting a lot of other mail — mail that spends three paragraphs talking about the color of the leaves this time of year, or how excellent the year has been, or telling a story that makes it sound like they’ve already helped everyone.

The time for Thanking and Reporting to your donors for their previous gifts? That was before. Make sure you’ve done that by mid-November. Year-end is a time for Asking.

In our tests, year-end fundraising that spent significant time Thanking or Reporting raised less money

This is not just theory. This whole post is an attempt to explain testing results!

It may be hard. It may be counter-intuitive. (And it’s especially hard for smaller organizations that don’t communicate with their donors more than a couple times a year).

But trust me. The job of your fundraising from mid-November on is to remind your donor to send in a gift, not to persuade them. Just Ask. Ask Boldly. Ask without fear. Ask knowing that your donors love your cause and your organization’s role in helping them make the world a better place!


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.

5 comments on ““Remind, Don’t Persuade”

  1. Interesting. Makes me think of an infographic type illustration

    Problem (homelessness, drug addiction, etc)

    Solution (housing, counseling, etc)

    Your gifts help solve the problem.


    1. Yes, that’s a great idea! Two thoughts for you:
      1. If you include the infographic in your year-end fundraising, keep it super simple.
      2. Make sure it’s super clear that people/your cause need help today. Many infographics accidentally make it look like the problem is already solved.

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