To the Point: You Talk, Donors Listen
Hopeful, not hopeless
One reason for thinking small is that people tend to act on what they believe they can change. If your problem seems intractable, enormous and endless, people won't be motivated to help. They want to know there is something — anything — that they can fix by giving you money. If you want to raise money, give them a reason to feel hopeful about the impact of their gifts rather than hopeless about the overall prospects for change.
I recently saw some ads about global warming that showed the earth as a melting ice cream cone. This is probably what the environmental organization thought it was communicating: Global warming is real, and we must urgently address it. Give to our organization now.
This is what I was thinking: We're doomed. Oh well.
I found the ad profoundly depressing and demoralizing. How can one donation stop the end of the planet? It won't. So I didn't give. Environmentalists need to give me an aspect of the problem that I can comprehend in scope and feel empowered to change.
True, not false
Many fundraisers are up against misconceptions about their issues. So they spend time debunking the myths. You've seen those myth vs. fact sheets, I'm sure. Here's the problem: The more you talk about the myth, the more airtime it gets and the more people remember it. And unfortunately, it might be all they remember. There's plenty of research showing the myth vs. fact approach helps perpetuate the myth.
Imagine you're an advocacy organization trying to convince Americans a health care reform proposal does not ration care. This is important to raising money for your efforts. You might say:
Myth: Health care reform means rationed care.
Fact: No proposals would prevent people from getting the care they need from their doctors.