Don’t set the bar too high for your next fundraising appeal


case2Hmmm? I must be on a Jeff Brooks kick because this is the second or third time I referenced his blog — Future Fundraising Now — in the last few weeks. LOL  Did you read his blog post titled “Pixar’s 22 rules of fundraising” from a guest blogger named Andrew Rogers? If not, then you have to find a few minutes to do so. Those 22 rules are awesome and should be part of every fundraising professional’s toolbox. Today, I’m focusing on “Rule 16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

When applying this Pixar rule to fundraising, Andrew Rogers says:

Rule for fundraisers: What happens if the need isn’t addressed? How are real people being affected? In our case, we should never “stack the odds” by exaggerating or otherwise being less than perfectly truthful. On the other hand, don’t tell less than the full truth either, and remember that the full truth often isn’t very pretty.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a non-profit organization try to apply this rule by telling donors things like:

  • We’ll close our doors unless we meet this fundraising goal.
  • We’ll shut down a site if this campaign fails to hit goal.
  • We’ll eliminate this program if we’re not successful.

To be clear, I don’t think Rule 16 is a license to practice extortion or heavy-handed fundraising tactics.

In instances where I’ve seen agencies use urgency messages laced with “We’re gonna close or we’re going to eliminate programming,” two interesting things seem to happen every time:

  1. They usually get an initial bump in money coming in (e.g. donors respond), and
  2. The next time donors get solicited, the response is down again.

I believe there is a simple explanation for this phenomenon . . . donors don’t like to throw good money after bad.

Before you decide to hit that big red panic button on your fundraising dashboard and tell the entire community that you’re in trouble, I advise that you think twice about doing it. All you’re doing is setting the bar very high down the road, and what happens if you cannot get over that bar?

case1I suggest going back and doing exactly what Rule 16 tells you to do:

  • Write a case statement that tells a story about one of your clients (or a composite client).
  • Describe their needs. What is at stake if they don’t succeed?
  • Describe how you help them with those needs. Help me root for them!
  • Describe how a donor’s support will tip the scales in their favor of our main character.
  • Don’t make this story so dramatic that donors conclude that nothing they do will make a difference.
  • Be truthful and make it emotional. You are telling a story!

This case for support document is internal. Use this tool to:

  • develop your agency’s marketing materials and fundraising brochures,
  • write your direct mail and targeted mail letters,
  • write your website and social media copy, and
  • train your fundraising volunteers on how to turn it into a story that they share with donors during a cultivation, solicitation or stewardship visit with a donor.

Always remember . . . donors care about your mission, your clients, and the impact of their contribution. They don’t normally care about saving institutions and your sacred cows.

What does your case for support (e.g. case statement) look like? When was the last time your refreshed that document? How do you go about developing that document? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on June 11, 2013, in Fundraising, nonprofit, resource development and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice blog post, Febe. I appreciate you using my post as a springboard! Your perspective on the “case for support” aspect of fundraising and resource development is deep and knowledgeable. Keep up the great work.

  1. Pingback: Don't set the bar too high for your next fundra...

  2. Pingback: How to write an inspiring case for a less-than inspiring vision. | Everything Case (for Support)

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