The fundraising mindset is not natural for most people. It takes a lot of work and experience, combined with a drive for success and a desire to challenge assumptions. It’s a very pragmatic task – finding what works, doing it well, then testing everything to see how it can further improve.

A recent article by Steven Screen illustrates why the fundraising mindset is often hard to “get” for founders and other mission-focused staff inside of nonprofit organizations. There are a few basic objections that some nonprofit leaders and staff raise when considering fundraising offers:

“That’s not the whole picture.” This is the thinking that every program and part of your charity’s mission should be discussed in your fundraising copy. But the truth is, donors don’t respond to the whole picture. They don’t have time for it. They respond to specific cases and needs, and these needs must be honestly presented. “Whole picture” fundraising has been proven ineffective over and over again. So, it’s important to do what works, and do it honestly and as effectively as possible.

“This is too emotional.” What’s interesting about this is that founders of nonprofits, in particular, were moved to launch the organization, as others are moved to join the mission, because of their emotional response to the need. Over time, those driving the mission out in the field can become less motivated by the emotional appeal and more focused on measuring effectiveness — while donors are moved by particular stories and needs. Again, understanding what motivates donors is a big part of the fundraiser’s job.

A third argument comes in the form of, “But if our donors knew more about what we do, they would give more.” This ties in with, “We just need to tell donors how effective we are.”

While these are definitely important, experience and testing over time have shown that giving detailed explanations of programs and patting yourself on the back for how well they’re performing does not work as well as fundraising for a particular need.

The best place to talk about programs and effectiveness is in a donor newsletter, which should be created as a “soft-ask” direct mail package. The donor newsletter will raise some money, but not nearly as much as communicating an urgent need with a powerfully emotional story.

Whether your fundraising happens in-house or with a professional agency, nonprofit leaders should seek out those with the right mindset to excel at bringing in the resources that sustain and grow their mission.


For help with developing your next fundraising campaign, contact LDMI today.