What we can learn from NPR's fundraising


NPR’s Fall Fund Drive began today.  I’m always struck by how many things NPR does right in their fundraising, so let’s take a look at what we fundraisers can learn from them…

  1. They always talk to one person.  The announcers are always saying things like, “That’s where you come in,” “you make the programming on this station possible,” and “We need you to become a Member today.”  Unlike too many nonprofits who sound like they are talking to everybody at once, they talk directly to me.  It’s very effective.
  2. They know the power of repetition.  This Fund Drive will be a constant part of their programming for a couple weeks.  Why?  They know that if they only ask once or twice not enough people will give.  So why do too many nonprofits only ask their donors for money a couple times a year?  They should learn the important fact that NPR knows; not everyone is able to give at the same time, so give people lots of chances to give.  Nonprofits, you should ask for money more often.  You’ll get a few complaints but you’ll get FAR more people who are happy to help.  And you’ll do more good.
  3. Finally, they make specific Asks based on listener preference.  During news programs they ask for support to pay for their news gathering.   During entertainment and arts programming, they ask for support for those shows.  All of the funds are undesignated, but they craft their asks around what they know the listener likes.  Nonprofits, you can do the same thing.  Send out fundraising appeals and newsletters themed around specific programs.  Some of your fundraising can be more general, but the more specific you can get around interesting, life-changing programs you’re running, the better.

In our “Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat” system, we teach the same things; talk directly to your donors, ask them often, and be specific when you do.  These are the bedrock principals of Asking well.

But for today, just make your fundraising more like NPR’s and you’ll likely raise more money.


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.

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