Don’t Believe These 3 Misconceptions That Destroy Fundraising Results
Direct response fundraising has built up a lot of lore over the years. Along with the hard-won lessons about what works and what doesn’t, some negative notions persist. And they’re probably holding you back from generating more revenue for your cause. So let’s take a look at dispelling three of the most pernicious misconceptions.
1. ‘Too much mail will turn donors off.’
Don’t accept the mistaken idea that fundraising is an intrusion in donors’ lives, or that donor fatigue is actually a thing. Truth is, donors like to give and want to give for the simple reason that most people will help if they have the opportunity.
What’s more, giving is good for donors — something that many people just inherently recognize. Studies show that people who donate are happier and healthier. Giving is also spiritually good. Stinginess isn’t the way of the universe, generosity is — which means that giving is one of the best ways to build up some good karma.
Not only that, from the nonprofit’s perspective, it’s pretty hard to create relationships with your donors when you mail or email them only once or twice a year. But, when you send more, will donors give every time? No. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like hearing from you.
You have donors because your nonprofit is doing work that they believe in. So communicate with them — often. That’s what they expect. That’s why they’re on your mail and email lists in the first place — not because they believed you would ignore them.
2. ‘We need to educate donors about our mission.’
There are venues for educating donors, but certainly not in your fundraising appeals. Those should be all about action — not only in the ask but throughout the appeal. And not only about the donor taking action to give, but also the nonprofit taking action to generate outcomes.
Sure, you hear fundraising pros talk about using storytelling and emotion to engage donors. That’s all true. Stories and emotion are critical, but their purpose is to move donors to take action.
Since the first few lines in your letter or email are the most important, that’s ideally where the emphasis on action can start, so that you’re priming donors right from the get-go.
You can do that with letter leads like:
- “You have been specially selected to take part in this survey.”
- “If your faith moves you to help children who are going hungry, please sign and return the petition I’ve enclosed. Here’s why.”
- “I’m writing to you because I urgently need your help to overcome a budget shortfall that’s threatening to undo all the good we’ve accomplished together.”
If your letter opens with musings and meanderings or, worse, long explanations about your mission, you’re going to lose most of your donors. Fundraising is about action, and that’s where the emphasis should be in your fundraising appeals.
3. ‘The letter needs to sound like the executive director.’
This is a typical comment, and it’s understandable. The president or executive director no doubt believes passionately in the mission of the nonprofit, so they might think of themself as the face of the nonprofit. But that’s where the disconnect comes in.
Truth is, most donors probably don’t know or care who the president or executive director is. But even beyond that, the fundraising for a nonprofit isn’t there to validate a particular nonprofit executive. It’s there to validate the donor.
Successful nonprofit executives realize this. They know it’s not their letter, even though their name is on it. It’s the donor’s letter. So it should sound like the donor, and it should be about their values, their compassion, and their donation.
The unfortunate reality is that many nonprofits do direct-response fundraising wrong, and then conclude that it doesn’t work. But it does work, exceedingly well, in fact, providing consistent funding year after year for those nonprofits that know the secrets. It all depends on creating the right conditions for success — and steering clear of the misconceptions.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: Direct Mail or Email? Win Over Donors With Both Channels
An agency-trained, award-winning, freelance fundraising copywriter and consultant with years of on-the-ground experience, George specializes in crafting direct mail appeals, online appeals and other communications that move donors to give. He serves major nonprofits with projects ranging from specialized appeals for mid-level and high-dollar donors, to integrated, multichannel campaigns, to appeals for acquisition, reactivation and cultivation.