Beware the Bus-Stop Broadside Fundraiser
Imagine you’re waiting at the bus stop on a busy street in your town. It’s a cold day, and you’ve got your hood up and your head down. You’re thinking about a lot of things. That you’re going to be late to work if the bus doesn’t soon appear. That you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning. That all that holiday overconsumption has made your pants too tight. That your spouse doesn’t look at you the same way anymore. That you forgot to feed your daughter’s guinea pig this morning.
Then I walk up and interrupt your thoughts. I’m a complete stranger, and I say: “Greetings. I’m Katya, and I’m a good person. I was born in 1967. My mission in life is to raise my children well, love those around me and leave the world a little better than when I entered it. I need a friend, and you could be my friend. Will you be my friend today?”
I imagine that you would think I was nuts. And quite the narcissist.
Yet we fundraisers launch into this kind of creepy plea all the time. I have a stack of year-end appeals from December on my desk, and too many sound just like my stranger at the bus stop. Here’s the template:
I’m writing from XYZ Nonprofit.
Established in (year), our mission is to (mission statement).
We need money.
Give us money.
Thanks in advance.
PS: Give us money.
I think this is nuts. And narcissistic. And it sounds like the bus-stop broadside. Fundraisers can and should do better. We should beware the bus-stop broadside fundraiser in all of us.
Why? People are busy, and their thoughts are not on us. They’re thinking about their weight, their job, their spouse, their children, the guinea pig, their place in this universe. If we interrupt them and ask for their attention, we had better do it well. We should not start a conversation with a monologue on our merits. We should acknowledge our readers’ presence and speak to their interests. We should not solely focus on what we want from them. We should focus on what we can achieve together.