Unfortunately, many nonprofit leaders are fundraising from a place of desperation.

The situation feels hopeless when money is so tight. When you can’t pay the rent or make payroll, the situation becomes desperate.

This is a terrible position for both fundraisers and donors. Nonprofit staff in this situation live with feelings of desperation, frustration, and helplessness.

Avoid Alienating Donors through Desperation

To organizations in desperate situations, donors feel like they are throwing good money after bad. They are afraid (rightfully so) that the situation will be the same next month. Their donation doesn’t do anything except delay the inevitable.

Nonprofits in this position are alienating donors and they appear to be stuck in a difficult, vicious cycle.

However, there is hope — a way out. You can change your language and your attitude. Instead of desperate fundraising, leverage urgency.

Attract Donors with a Sense of Urgency

It’s important not to confuse desperation with urgency. Urgency is great for raising gifts.

Focus on what’s urgent at your nonprofit. Here are some examples:

  • People die every day from cancer, and we need to find a cure
  • Latchkey children are falling farther behind and need after school programs
  • The environment is literally and figuratively on fire, and we must reverse it
  • Animals are being abused and neglected and we need to provide proper shelter
  • Refugees need food and shelter to prevent them from becoming homeless

These situations are urgent, but not desperate. Many of the above examples apply to some nonprofit leaders who are currently fundraising from desperation. They are confusing urgency with desperation.

Confidence Stems from Urgency

Note that none of these examples mention missing payroll or turning out the lights. When you raise funds from a position of urgency, the funds roll in.

Not only that, but when you raise funds well, donors feel good. They are not giving from a position of obligation — to prevent your doors from closing. Rather, they are investing in something important. They feel intrinsic value because they’ve done something truly meaningful.

Urgency to Solve the World’s Biggest Problems

A capital campaign infuses a sense of urgency coupled with deadlines into your fundraising. Not only are you trying to change the world, but now you have a deadline to meet.

Donors can get excited about this important and monumental effort because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re finished and celebrating, they will have helped make a difference in the community.

This simple, yet important, change in your fundraising language and attitude can make a real difference in your fundraising results. Donors are attracted to solving the world’s biggest problems, but they don’t want to throw money down the drain.

The way you position your case for support will have a meaningful difference in how much you raise. Are you raising money to keep the doors open and the lights on or to save lives? The choice is yours.

1 Comment

  1. Meredith Funston

    Great advice, just what I needed to hear as I draft final year-end emails in the coming weeks. Our year-end is Sept. 30 and we also just went public with our campaign last month. So your podcast about that was also very timely this week! Most of our quiet phase campaign donors checked a box on their pledge form indicating they would continue their annual giving as well; so if they do that, we’ll make it! Special reminders going to them! Thanks for all your encouragement and good advice, A&A!


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