But I’m Not a Fundraiser… Going from Marketer to Fundraiser

Confused marketer

In September of 2019, I began the journey from marketing professional to fundraising professional.

Some parts of that journey were startling, others were more subtle.

I’m writing this three-post blog series to share what changed. Maybe you will recognize some of these feelings on your journey.

One day in early September my new boss and I were chatting. He was worried about the year-end fundraising appeal. We had no development director, so I (as the not-very-interested in fundraising) Director of Marketing, agreed that I would take a crack at learning what I needed to know to write a letter that would raise money.


As I began my deep dive into learning how to do fundraising appeals that worked, I explored paid learning opportunities, free resources, and read many, many books.

The more I learned, the more irritated I became.

But I was also deeply fascinated.

I had been involved in putting out fundraising appeals for nearly a decade. Mostly editing and design. And they never worked that well. They raised some money… but not much.

It finally broke through to me that there were certain things that worked in direct mail and email fundraising, and certain things that did NOT work.

This wasn’t some big cosmic mystery! These things had been tested, re-tested, and tested some more on other organizations.

And my instincts as a marketing director seemed to be all wrong.

Instincts like…

  • Make it look professional.
  • Use correct grammar.
  • Don’t (for the love of PETE) make it longer than one side of one page.
  • Don’t be too direct or pushy.
  • Don’t worry about reply cards — they don’t really make a difference.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and… wrong again.

Now, I’m a competitive person. I don’t like to be wrong.

And there was a moment where my defenses started to kick in… I was tempted to dismiss what I was learning because it SEEMED wrong.

But what was actually wrong was… I was following a different set of rules. Marketing rules instead of fundraising rules.

I realized I could learn these new and different rules. Rules that made me terribly uncomfortable because they were so different from what my instincts told me.

I wrote a year-end fundraising letter following the “new” guidelines.

And that’s when the magic started.

Comment here or find me on Twitter @sarahlundberg.

Read the series:

Generous Choice, Smart Marketing


I wrote last week about making generous choices as you create your fundraising:

  • It’s generous to cross the gap to your donor’s level of understanding instead of asking her to cross the gap to your level of understanding.
  • It’s generous to write and design your letter/email so that a reader doesn’t have to read the whole thing to get the point.

Both those choices are generous, and will increase how much revenue your fundraising brings in. 

There’s another choice that will also increase how much revenue you bring in:

  • Choosing to make your fundraising about your beneficiaries and about your donors will help you raise more money and do more good.

Here’s why…

Size of Market

There are far more people who care about your beneficiaries than there are who care about your organization. 

In other words, the “market” of people who would like to help your beneficiaries or cause is a LOT bigger than the “market” of people who would like to help your organization.

I tried to make this point in the following graphic (which I’ve never been completely satisfied with).  But seeing it is still helpful:

So as you create your direct response fundraising, remember that it doesn’t have to focus on your organization. 

Make the generous choice: create other-centered fundraising.  And from a marketing perspective, it’s also the smarter choice.

Your organization will be just as effective at its work if you don’t talk about your organization in your fundraising. 

If fact, you will likely be more effective because you’ll be raising more money and doing more good.