Fundraising is about money

It is fashionable in fundraising these days to say that fundraising is not about raising money. Instead, fundraising is about relationships, engagement, and this thing called “donor-centricity”, which in itself often means something different to each and every person working in fundraising today.

At many fundraising conferences, you are almost guaranteed to be served up a keynote address titled “Fundraising is not about money”. There are half a dozen consultants flying around the world these days giving the same speech whether it’s in Auckland, Amsterdam, or LA.

There’s something a bit Orwellian about the idea. After all, the word fundraising is a compound of the noun “Funds” and the verb “To Raise”. So the slogan “Fundraising is not about money” sounds like a classic example of doublespeak if I’ve ever heard one.

Various forms of this argument often venture into the comical…literally. One prominent “international fundraising consultant” starts off her version of her “Fundraising is not about money” presso by showing comic strip images in which fundraisers are the super heroes and money is the villain.

And this is why I cringe whenever I hear someone going on about how fundraising isn’t about money. Dismissing, ignoring and minimizing the role money plays in your fundraising “strategy” is an intoxicating idea, but it can also leave a nasty financial hangover.

When you buy into the mantra that fundraising is not about money, what happens is that you start paying less attention to your money. And like any relationship, if you don’t pay attention to your money, it will go away and end up in the hands of someone who cares about it more.

If you pay attention to your money, keep count of it, if you know where your money is coming from and where it is going, if you care about it, you will attract more money to you. That is why, as a fundraiser, money should sit at the centre of your relationships with donors. You should know exactly how much you have raised from each donor and a good idea about how much more you can raise from them in the future. Along with their name, you should have a monetary value affixed to every donor. Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Most of the time, it is exactly what you’ve been hired to do in the first place.

Pay attention to the money you raise. Care about the money. Think about it. Count it, every single day. The more attention you pay to your charity’s money, the more you will raise. I guarantee it, or your money back.

A Cheque is Feedback too

It is often recited that one disgruntled donor speaks for an average of 10 disgruntled donors.

The statistic is often recited whenever a donor complains about a charity’s fundraising activity. The most common complaints are about face-to-face programmes, telemarketing and direct mail, particularly premium direct mail designs.

Anyone involved in any of these direct marketing media is familiar with the problem. You talk to thousands of people on the street or over the phone, and some are going to complain. It’s almost impossible to avoid.

If you send out 20,000 pieces of mail, and someone complains, and you multiply that complaint by 10, they are still only speaking on behalf of 0.05% of your donor base. 99.95% of your donors do not feel the same way.

But what about the people who did respond with a donation? And do they also represent others like them? Absolutely. Every person who responds to your appeal is – likewise – representative of 10 others who did not take up your offer but wish they could.

So if you send out a mailing to 20,000 people, and you get a 5% response rate, you can multiply that number by 10 and it’ll give you the corresponding representative number of people who feel the same way.

A 5% response rate means that almost 50% of the people contacted feel the same way. They support your cause and would like to give. If you see a 10% response rate, virtually everyone on your donor base agrees with you and supports you. And the fact they didn’t give right then, right now, often has nothing to do with you at all.

Much of the problem comes from people’s natural bias towards negative thinking. It’s much easier to imagine the worst possible outcome. It is much harder to embrace the positive aspects of a situation, even when those positives far outweigh the negatives.

And this is a perfect example of negative thinking bias. We all know that one person’s feedback speaks for 10 other people. But often, the multiplier is only used when counting up the number of complaints you receive. Rarely do we consider the fact that every instance of positive feedback – like a donation – also represents the mindset of 10 other people as well.

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