ProSpeak: A Not-So-Common Understanding of Fundraising and Common Sense
Fundraising as a common sense activity
What is the common sense about fundraising? The average American probably thinks we write letters, e-mails, magazine ads and TV spots to convince people to suspend their otherwise more sensible judgment and impulsively send their hard-earned money to charitable organizations. Many people see this as a dupe. Professional fundraisers, they think, exploit people through guilt, fear, pity and other human weaknesses to get them to contribute to their causes.
Successful fundraising, however, is more likely another example of building common sense. Look at the most effective forms of fundraising — recruiting major donors, winning long-term support from foundations, building a cadre of committed long-term member donors. Where people's weaknesses might result in impulsive, one-time donations, the really valuable donors, who support our causes over prolonged periods of time and with large gifts, are motivated by feelings and ideas that are part of their inherent worldly concepts and value systems. For them, donating is not a fluke; it is part of what they do because they know it is the right thing to do.
Working with the causes we do, we have an uncommon sense of the world's needs — children who are hungry, women who are abused, animals that are mistreated, the sick waiting to be healed, victims looking for shelter.
One way to appeal for support is highly scientific — like data, statistics and multivariate analysis. Prove that we need support. Another way is to appeal to people's fear and guilt — "Isn't it your Christian duty to help these suffering souls?"
But the best way to appeal is to make our causes part of the common sense. In its most successful form, we all know what this looks like. When disaster strikes, everyone knows (common sense) the Red Cross will be there. When Christmas comes around, everyone knows the Salvation Army will have bell ringers with kettles. It just feels right, it is common sense, to donate to these organizations when the time is right.