Windows Are More Important Than Frames


There’s a counterintuitive truth in mass donor fundraising:

  • If you talk less about your organization in your fundraising, over time donors come to value your organization more.

We know this because when we help organizations create fundraising that talks less about their organizations, the following things happen:

  • Short term revenue goes up
  • Donor retention goes up
  • The number of major donors increases
  • Long term revenue goes up

The best analogy I’ve come up with to explain why this happens is about windows and window frames.

Here’s what I mean…

Think of your donor communications as a window.  And for a window to function, you need to have both a frame and the glass. 

The content in your fundraising that’s about the people you help, or the cause you work on, is the “glass” in the window.

The content about your organization is the “frame.”

The more content about your organization in your fundraising, the wider your frame is.  And the wider your frame is, the smaller the glass needs to be in order to fit inside the frame.

The smaller the glass, the tinier the window for your donors to “see through” to the people you help or the cause you work on.

Why is this important?

Because the people your organizations helps, or the cause your organization is working on, is more compelling than your organization itself.

In other words, donors are more interested in looking through the window than they are looking at the window frame.

The Counterintuitive Consequence…

When you use a “thin frame” and show donors more of what they came for, an amazing thing happens over time.

Donors come to value your organization more highly than they value other organizations.  Why? 

Because every time donors look at a piece of communication from you, the donor sees the thing they care about most. 

Put another way, by talking less about your organization in your fundraising, donors come to value your organization more.

Your Frame is Important

Your frame can add value.  It’s important.  You can even use the frame to shape the conversation. 

And it’s one of the ways a donor comes to know your organization and what you stand for.

But as you construct your fundraising – as you decide what to talk about and how much to talk about it – always remember that donors are usually far more interested in looking at what they can see through the window than looking at the frame.