Do you need your donors?
It's yes or no. There's no maybe, no degrees of agreement. You need them, or you don't.
If you answered no, you should stop reading. You're pretty much wasting your time at this blog.
If you said yes, here's a second question: Do your donors know you need them?
Again, there's no room for ambiguity. It's yes or no.
If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, it's largely because of what you've said -- or more likely, not said.
Too many nonprofits live in a shadowy land where they need their donors to fund vital programs -- but they don't want to admit it. So their fundraising offers go something like this:
Maybe you'd be interested in giving. But don't worry if you don't give. We're a very well-run organization, and if you can't give, we have many other sources of funding. You're a small fish anyway, to be honest.
I'm exaggerating, but only a little bit. These organizations are practicing passive-aggressive fundraising. It tiptoes around the issue of need. It hints at asking. It expects donors to read between the lines and understand what they're unwilling to come out and say. In my experience, this comes from two related fears:
- If we admit need, it may appear that we are not a well-run organization, and people will think giving to us is not a good investment.
- If we admit need often, we'll be the boy who cried "wolf," and people won't take our need seriously.
#2 has some validity. You can overdo "emergency mode" and lose credibility, like that car alarm in your neighborhood that's constantly going off. But if you're truly in need, tell the truth, Your sense of what's "too often" is certainly more sensitive than a donor's. I've seen emergency funding shortfall appeals do well more times than I can count. And I've never seen repercussions to such appeals.
Because donors want to be wanted and need to be needed. So if you need your donors, go ahead and tell them. Let them know the urgency and the stakes. Be direct, strong, and clear. Don't hide behind a passive-aggressive smokescreen.
It works, it's respectful of donors, and (assuming you're telling the truth) it's the right thing to do.
Technorati Tag: fundraising