Easier Said than Done: Fundraising in the Age of Cynicism
You might be amazed at how cynical a lot of donors are. I saw that cynicism up close a few years ago: I was assigned to interview donors who were sponsoring third-world children through a well-known religious organization. Again and again, those sponsors told me that the most wonderful thing about being sponsors was discovering that the children they sponsored were real people.
Think about that: These folks weren't habitual criminals or bomb-tossing nihilists. They were ordinary people with strong charitable impulses. And they assumed that the well-reputed organization they were sending checks to was connecting them to "composite" children or making them share their children with many others — either of which directly contradicted what the organization claimed about the one sponsor/one child relationship. In other words, they assumed the organization was lying to them. They were surprised, even amazed, when they saw proof that the organization was being truthful.
That's what we're up against. No wonder fundraising is so hard! You can't make donors forget past scandals, when nonprofits used money poorly, even criminally. Or marketed untruthfully. You'll just have to create conditions that help donors get past that nagging fear that they're being taken. Here are a few steps you can take:
Ask like you mean it
Too many fundraising offers are vague. They do little more than wave a brand in people's faces and hope that motivates them to give. That old, snake-oil marketing assumption plays right into cynicism. It inadvertently says, "We don't really need your money for anything ?specific. It just goes in a giant pot, and we'll use it to ?pay our princely executive salaries. Unless we use it ?frivolously or fraudulently."
Instead, treat donors as partners. Or investors. Tell them about specific dollar amounts that will accomplish specific goals. That shows donors you need their dollars to accomplish specific things.