Not All Good, Not All Bad


Fundraising shouldn’t be all good news, and it shouldn’t be all bad news.

Your stream of fundraising communications should feature both.

Asking for gifts (appeals, e-appeals) works best when it shares the bad news: the problem or negative situation that your organization works on. That truth about what’s happening reveals the tension donors hold between what the world is like today and what they want the world to be. 

That tension causes a lot of people to donate.

Reporting (newsletters) works best when it shares the good news: examples of how your organization made a difference.  It brings real joy to donors to see the triumphs that their gift made possible – and many will want to give again to do more good and feel more joy. 

Those triumphs will also cause people to donate.

Rules To Live By

Here’s what we’ve noticed…

If you share only bad news, you’ll raise less than you could raise. When we serve organizations who previously only shared the bad news, they raise more money when they incorporate Reports that share the good news.

If you share only good news, you’ll raise less than you could raise. When we serve organizations who previously only shared the good news, they raise more money when their appeals and e-appeals share the problem or negative situation their organization works on.

Finally, in the context of direct response fundraising, each piece of communication should focus on only one type of news. When we’ve served organizations who previously “mixed together” the good news and bad news in each piece of fundraising, they raise more money when their appeals and e-appeals share the bad news, and their newsletters share the good news.

We wish it weren’t that way, because it means that organizations must share tough needs and tough stories. And they must be disciplined about what they put in each piece of communication. But this approach helps the organizations we serve to raise a great deal more money. 

Silver Linings in a Pandemic

silver lining

We at Better Fundraising have noticed a lot of “fundraising silver linings” in the past few weeks.

So with absolutely all due respect to the loss of life, the people sacrificing on the front lines, and the ways we’ve all be harmed by the current situation… there are plenty of silver linings for donors, Fundraisers and fundraising.

  • Donor generosity is amazing.
  • Donor retention is going to be up this year, based on what we’re seeing.
  • Most of our clients had a great March. For many of them, it was their best month ever.
  • More nonprofits are practicing fundraising essentialism: doing the things that drive results and nothing more. Put another way, they’re abandoning the activities they’ve always done “because they were supposed to” and are doing the things that drive measurable results.
  • Organizations that had systematic approaches to major donor fundraising knew exactly who to call. And those donors came through.
  • Nonprofits that have put in the work before all this – communicating enough, making sure donors know that their gifts make a real difference – are seeing incredible giving.
  • Even nonprofits that haven’t put in the work are seeing the incredible giving. I repeat: donor generosity is amazing.
  • Nonprofits using data to know whether they are still in the Bump or have moved into the Slump, and modifying their messaging accordingly.
  • Nonprofits seeing incredible response to their emails continuing to send those emails until results start to drop.
  • Nonprofits sending direct mail because they know that their emails don’t penetrate the older portion of their file.
  • More and more older donors getting comfortable giving online.

Huge thanks to all the Fundraisers out there making all this possible. You’re giving donors chances to support the causes, beneficiaries and organizations they care about. And you’re raising money for causes that matter.