By Mary Cahane

Your donors really don’t care about your fundraising goals. But they care — a lot — about your mission.

Fundraising goals are important — inside. But donors care about your mission. If you’re fundraising, you already know that. But is that reflected in how you ask for gifts?

Time and again, I see it: internal fundraising goals, how hard the staff is working, paragraph upon paragraph explaining how good the organization is at their work.

Your donors? They’re already there. They assume you work hard. They know you need to raise money to fund that work. And, most important of all, they trust your organization.

So why aren’t you talking with them —in all your communications — about your mission? About the people, communities, animals, or environment you’re there to serve — and how a gift will help?

What’s getting in your way? Here are some potential roadblocks to better fundraising.

Your organization’s “voice” as declared by non-fundraisers focuses only on happy stories

There’s so much room in your fundraising communications for happy stories! Newsletters can be full of them. And donors deserve to hear good news. But you cannot avoid talking about the problem your organization is there to solve — or at least, help.

Appeals are where you describe the problem. And if it’s a truly serious problem, worthy of serious donations, you have to show donors as well as tell them. And yes, it’s hard. I expect to cry as I write appeals. Because I feel the pain I’m describing.

And that’s what you want your donors to do, as well. Not to torture them. Not to exploit any beneficiaries. But to reach their hearts. And to explain that there’s a real problem… and they have the power to help.

We like to help. Helping makes us feel good. Don’t deny your donors that chance.

You’re buried in your fundraising goals

Maybe you feel like your job depends on meeting them. (There are far too many variables for that!)

Or maybe you’re already connecting “fundraising goals” and “problem solved” in your head. After all, this is your day-to-day life, right? You totally get it!

But donors have their own jobs and causes. And their own deadlines and worries. How you do your job shouldn’t be another concern to them.

So, fundraising staff: set your own goals. (And not based solely on the expense side of the budget!) Set them wisely — a little stretch, something to work hard for. But make them reachable.

Then translate that into your mission for your donors. Telling donors you need to raise $250,000 this month doesn’t explain the problem. You need to raise that amount because a new, life-saving piece of equipment costs $250,000. And if they can help, your organization will be able to buy it and put it right to work, in your community.

You’ve read that telling real stories — hard to tell stories — is “poverty porn” or the like

Covering over bad situations isn’t going to help. Avoiding reality isn’t going to help. And fundraiser, we’re in the reality business in a big way. People are hurting. Animals are being killed. And the climate crisis is real, friends.

But if you’re telling a personal story, you MUST treat that person with respect and consideration. And you share nothing they’re not comfortable with. You give them the power to veto sharing and find a new story if necessary. Their privacy and comfort are paramount!

Your job is to connect donors to mission

There’s a world of pain out there. And you, along with your donors, are part of healing it. But like a doctor can’t fix what she can’t diagnose, your donor can’t help when she doesn’t know how badly help is needed.

Be honest. Be real. Be full of empathy and respect — for anyone whose story you tell and for the people who’ll read that story.

Mary Cahane is a fundraising specialist, consultant and advisor.

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