3 Ways Your Fundraising Messages Are Turning Off Donors

Fundraising is definitely not for the faint of heart. With so many nonprofits vying for donor dollars, fundraising- just like sales- can get quite cut-throat. One of the biggest mistakes fundraisers make is projecting this stress into their pitch.

Read our complete guide to fundraising campaign planning here to learn all of the must-do steps in order to plan your next successful fundraising campaign.

If you notice that you aren’t successfully connecting with donors, it is time to audit your fundraising strategy. Here are 3 ways that your fundraising messages may be turning off donors.

Not Embracing the Fundraising Process

The single biggest mistake that you can make while fundraising is not acknowledging exactly what you are doing- selling your organization by engaging your donors.

The Mistake: Ignoring the Sale

Always remember that fundraising is essentially sales. You shouldn’t feel as though you are inconveniencing people by fundraising for your organization. If you’ve already got an audience (which you likely do), then use your knowledge of your services/mission/etc., as well as your amazing power of gentle persuasion to bring in those dollars!

Don’t be ashamed to ask for a donation. Acknowledge that you are appreciative of your donor’s time (and money), but don’t apologize for asking. If you are confident in the product for which you are raising funds, then others will likely pick up on that energy and consider an investment.

But wait- it’s not JUST about the sale.

The Mistake: Forgetting About the Relationship

Fundraisers should be taking the sales process one step further. You don’t just want to get a donation, you NEED to retain that donor for campaigns (and years) to come. So, don’t sell this one campaign- you must educate and inspire your donors on a continuous basis.

After all, you don’t want this to be a one-time transaction. Fundraising is about relationships.

The Solution: A Long-Term Focus

We’ve talked a lot about donor retention in previous blog posts, and this is truly the key to effective fundraising efforts.

To be sure that your fundraising pitch is on-point and is attracting donors- not turning them off- follow these action steps:

  • Show genuine enthusiasm for what your organization is doing.
  • Know the ins and outs of your organization’s product and be ready to answer your donor’s questions.
  • Don’t force it. Donors unable to give will never reconsider a donation if they feel pressured.
  • Always leave room for a ‘no.’ After all, it’s about the long-term relationship.
  • Show appreciation for gifts of every size.
  • Make every contact with potential donors count.

As we all know, fundraising is tough. An enthusiastic attitude and knowledge about your product are bound to excite your donors, without the need for aggressive or apologetic pitches.

Choosing the Wrong Stories

Storytelling is an essential part of the fundraising sales pitch. Donors need to be able to understand who is impacted by your organization, and there is no better way to express this than with an effective story.

However, there is also room for error in storytelling. There are times when certain stories may be used inappropriately. Check out these mistakes and learn about how to avoid them.

The Mistake: Guilt

You want to convey to the donor how you are making the world a better place, but don’t want to lead them down a path of depression.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid emotional stories. After all, emotions are what will be driving your donors to action. However, you should avoid stories that may make the donor feel guilty.

You want your donor to feel as though they are part of the solution, not the problem.

The Mistake: Length

Even your most committed long-term donors are not likely to read your 3000-word essay on the impact of your work. Yes, you may want to describe every detail of a particular case or service, but this isn’t what is going to connect with your donors.

The Mistake: Sharing the Same Story With Everyone

If you are a seasoned fundraiser, you are probably familiar with donor segmentation. You may have looked into creating different marketing materials, campaigns, and special events depending on your audience.

Keep this process of segmentation going and consider adjusting your stories to work with each of your donor segments.

The Solution: Reality Works

When sharing your story with donors, stay true to reality and don’t be afraid to switch up your storytelling methods to cater to your audience.

Your stories, whether they are about clients being served, volunteers that were mobilized, or another facet of your organization, should be accurate and specific. You can still respect the privacy of your clients in your stories by avoiding identifying information.

It is essential that you focus on not just the problem, but the solution. Your audience needs to be shown exactly how your organization is working toward the common good.

Then, depending on your audience, consider different story platforms like movies, music, pictures, podcasts, and short stories. For example, older donors may still love a short and impactful written story while millennials are bound to respond to a moving movie or podcast.

Ignoring Donor-Centric Fundraising

Fundraising needs to revolve around your donor, not yourself or your organization.

The Mistake: Forgetting Your Donor

Let’s say your current campaign is focusing on providing shelter for homeless youth. The story you share with your potential donors involves one of your clients- a young woman suffering from mental illness that has been living on the streets for years. Your nonprofit was responsible for providing wrap-around services to her, including health care, clothing, job training, etc.

When you told your story, did you explain how your donor was essential in helping this woman?

Don’t forget your donor. Fundraising is not about what you are doing, but how your donors are part of the overall picture.

The Solution: Stay Donor-Centric

Donor-centric fundraising is quite a ‘buzz-word’ nowadays and that is because, if used right, it works!

Donors want to feel responsible for being part of the solution. There is no better way to do this than by reporting the results, sharing those results, and thanking your donor.

There are a number of ways to be donor-centric.

  • Acknowledge your donor in your stories
  • Listen to feedback from your donors and respond immediately and appropriately
  • Regularly share information about the impact of donations and the donor’s return on investment.
  • Keep those personalized ‘Thank You’ notes coming!

Fundraising doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep your messaging confident, clear, appropriate, personalized, and donor-centric to keep your audience engaged and excited about what they are a part of.

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