5 Things your Board and CEO Don’t Get about Fundraising and Donors

Confused man trying to put puzzle pieces together

Put the puzzle pieces together for donors by simplifying

Donors feel good when they give. There’s plenty of research  showing  philanthropic giving is good for people. It makes folks happier, healthier and even more successful. So there is no need to apologize when asking for support where the need is authentic. In fact, asking others to participate in philanthropy is a great gift. Just don’t forget to thank them personally and promptly when they do, so they also experience the joy of having made the right decision.

Donors respond to sizzle, not steak. Share the benefits, not the features.  Always imagine your donor to be asking WIIFM? It may simply be the joy of giving to help one hungry child. Not all the details that go into making this happen. Not all the ancillary programs. Perhaps foundations want this, or one or two major donors, but the lion’s share of folks just want to shed a tear or feel a lump in their throat when they fund a happy ending.

Donors fund outcomes they can visualize, not strategic plans. They want to fund impact. Not your strategic plans, processes and work on your new website. Those things are important to you, but not the things that motivate your supporters. People are more likely to help if they feel their contribution will make a significant difference in someone’s situation. Help folks easily picture what their money will be used for. Use words and images that immediately bring a picture to mind.

Donors don’t like the same things you like. You like your flowery prose. All the facts, figures and flow charts that show how amazing you are. Your history. Your awards. Even how many people you help. They’re all great stuff. But they aren’t the things donors go for. They like stories about one person. They like simple and to-the-point. They even like corny stuff that maybe makes your eyeballs roll back in your head.

Donors don’t care about bells and whistles. Sure it’s important to be where donors are. Social media, your website and email are all important communication tools. But… not because donors like shiny objects. They don’t need flash animation and over-produced videos. They don’t need slapped up Facebook pages put up merely because everybody else is doing it. They need simple, timely, relevant communication – and they need for you to make it super easy for them to communicate with you.

Your nonprofit’s mission is an unfolding story. Help your donors become active characters in the drama, not simply folks reading along.

ANNOUNCEMENT: This month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, which I’m delighted to be hosting, is TRICKS or TREATS – How Do You Get and Sustain Major Gifts? Do you have a story that needs to be told? TRICKS that work? TREATS you’ve used? If you blog, write up a post with tips, tools, tales, tricks or treats— anything you like WITCH fits the topic of major gifts fundraising. Feel free to DRESS UP a past post if you’ve written something recently that fits the bill. Holiday-themed posts get special credit!

Email your permalink to nonprofitcarnival@gmail.com by Thursday, 10/24.

Photo: Flickr,  David Goehring

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Joseph mullee says:

    I have a simple story. I volunteer at a veterans organization. We needed a digital camera, so I did research to see what it would cost ($200). I presented the need to our vets at a weekly lunch. One vet pulled me aside to say he would gladly pay for it. A few days later. we went to a local store and purchased it! IT WAS THAT SIMPLE! Now, this is just one example, but think about it. Be direct and clear and just ask. It works! (Don’t forget a thank you note!)

    • Love this story! Thanks so much for sharing it. A great reminder that most folks really do want to be helpful. They just don’t know what to do. It’s our job, as fundraisers, to make it simple for them to act and feel great.

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