Don’t Engage in Desperate or Apologetic Year-End Fundraising
Desperation is never a good look. It is especially ill-advised when fundraising to support a nonprofit mission.
There must be another school of thought about that because I receive upwards of five political fundraising texts per day, at least half of which use pleading as their messaging style. I have never responded with a donation to such a text or email even if I believe in the cause, but someone must, or I would think the campaigns would stop doing it.
Let’s put political fundraising communication methods aside though and run with the commonly accepted guidance that groveling is a bad and most likely ineffective communications strategy.
There are several good reasons why nonprofits should ditch appeals that employ a piteous or apologetic tone and focus instead on storytelling and making a solid case for a mission-focused need.
1. Money Management
People want to invest their philanthropic dollars in organizations that are financially sound. Sending an appeal that describes how your organization has run out of funds and can’t deliver services without a quick influx of cash gives the impression that you are bad money managers (episodic needs in response to an emergency or disaster notwithstanding).
Some supporters might respond to the fear of cessation of services; others may feel that if the organization wasn’t able to budget appropriately to cover its projected costs, that any financial donation at that point is akin to throwing good money after bad.
2. No Apologies
Apologetic fundraising diminishes your amazing mission. Nonprofit executives who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with fundraising sometimes make the mistake of sending messages in November and December that start something like this:
- “It is that time of year again that I must ask you to donate.”
- “Asking for your support is something we must do at this time of year to be able to deliver services.”
What!? Stop that. That type of message motivates absolutely no one. Your organization’s mission is likely vibrant, meaningful and necessary to the life or happiness of others. Don’t diminish that light by writing like Eeyore took control of your keyboard.
Focus on the good. Tell a story that illustrates how people feel both before and after coming in contact with your mission. Describe how lives are made better. People want to support something important, and your appeal letter or email is giving them a way to do just that. Be a proud conduit that enables people who want to give to be able to connect with a meaningful mission.
3. Don’t Save It All Until December
Successful fundraising involves a year-round strategy relating to whom your organization is interacting, which messages and which communication channels. The best thing you can do is make a plan ahead of time for the whole year, outlining what type of fundraising actions you plan to take with what audiences.
It is important to know that different audiences and stakeholders will need/want different types of messaging and involvement. You should focus on the way supporters want to engage with you, not the way in which you’ve always been comfortable. If you’ve done this strategically and effectively throughout the year, you won’t be in the position where you might feel the need to send an appeal that starts like the two examples I shared in reason No. 2.
People want to be involved in something that has a good chance of success. They want to know that the organization is fiscally responsible. And they don’t want to hear crickets from your organization all year long until you send a desperate, pleading letter in December. Your nonprofit’s mission is important, and people care about it. Give your mission the justice it deserves by fundraising strategically year-round and being a proud conduit that connects people who want to help with the missions that need them.
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: 4 Fallacies of Year-End Giving
Tracy Vanderneck is president of Phil-Com, a training and consulting company where she works with nonprofits across the U.S. on fundraising, board development and strategic planning. Tracy has more than 25 years of experience in fundraising, business development and sales. She holds a Master of Science in management with a concentration in nonprofit leadership, a graduate certificate in teaching and learning, and a DEI in the Workplace certificate. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), an Association of Fundraising Professionals Master Trainer, and holds a BoardSource certificate in nonprofit board consulting. Additionally, she designs and delivers online fundraising training classes and serves as a Network for Good Personal Fundraising Coach.