Top Ideas of 2022: Number 7


For the holidays this year, I’m going to share my fundraising ideas that got the most reactions on social media, and the story behind each idea.   

Starting with #7…

Effective direct response fundraising is so hard to create because it’s other-centered: it’s more about the donor and her values, and about the beneficiaries/cause, than it is about the organization sending it.

It is SO HARD for humans to realize that other people are different than us, and that they know and care about different things than we do.

Take a look at the worksheet below.  It attempts to show the differences between the people who make & approve fundraising, and the mass donors who receive the fundraising.

Click here to view a larger version of this chart.

Just look at that last line, the part of the “story” that a person is interested in. There’s a huge difference between what Insiders tend to be interested in, and what mass donors tend to be interested in.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard for Insiders to create effective direct response fundraising – they care about different things than their donors care about.

Let’s quickly look at the steps an Insider needs to go through to make effective fundraising for mass donors:

  1. Insiders first need to embrace that most donors are different than them.
  2. Then Insiders need to embrace that it’s OK for themselves to speak differently.
    • Note that this is where protestations about “but that’s not our voice!” always come up. But the strict adherence to a particular voice almost always means the organization will be ineffective communicating with people who think differently than Insiders – which is almost all individual donors.
  3. Then Insiders need to be confident enough that this new type of fundraising will work, that they will actually send it out.

So it’s a lot of emotional work for Insiders to be other-centered enough to send out fundraising that’s prepared for group of people who are different than themselves.

But for the Insiders and organizations that do it, the fundraising rewards are huge.


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.

13 comments on “Top Ideas of 2022: Number 7

    1. I’m referring to the scope that they think about the problem with. Insiders and Experts tend to have a larger scope. For example, say a large Foundation has a mandate to reduce homelessness. Their scope would often be large, as in something like, “We’d like to reduce the percentage of Washingtonians who experience homelessness by 1%.” Whereas a mass donor would have a smaller scope, thinking in terms of ‘helping a person or two.’ I hope that helps!

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