The Best Advice for Fundraisers: Don’t Ask For Money

You’re focusing your pitch on the wrong thing. Focus on “solving the problem” instead. 

Asking for money is hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It doesn’t come naturally, at least not to most people.

So take some advice from fundraisers who have been doing this successfully for a long, long time. If you think asking someone for money is hard to do, don’t do it. That’s right.

Don’t ask donors for money. 

Ask them to solve a problem instead.

Not only will your fundraising pitch become a lot easier for you to deliver, it will inspire the donor to give even more money. 

So the next time you’re getting ready to raise money, think about your mission as a problem that requires a solution. 

Tell donors what the world looks like in its current state. “Farmers can’t feed their families because they can’t yield enough crops to sell!”

Then, tell donors what the world could look like. “Imagine a world where farmers could afford better education for their children… Where they could sell their produce to neighboring impoverished communities.”

Finally, it’s time to issue your call-to action. 

Instead of this: “Would you please consider a donation of $18 to Organization X?” Try this: “Would you please feed a hungry village by investing $18 in their irrigation system?”

The beauty of this approach is that you can use it in every medium: an in-person (or virtual) solicitation, email marketing, social media, video, etc. Your message should always follow the arc of Problem>Solution>Call To Action. 

The main reason why you should adopt this approach is that it works, plain and simple. People give more money when they understand exactly what your cause looks like in its current state, what your cause could look like with more funding, and the impact that demonstrates why that change is important.

It’s the difference between this: 

For the first time since the establishment of ORGANIZATION, we need your help in order to continue our important work. As a result of the pandemic, the normal flow of donations has decreased dramatically. Without immediate support, ORGANIZATION will not be able to continue.

And

Your donation to ORGANIZATION ensures that our children have everything they need to flourish. From basic necessities like toothbrushes and soap to educational and therapeutic opportunities like school books and calculators, your donation makes a world difference.

The second reason why this approach is smart fundraising is that it continuously challenges you to define and refine your offering. Take 90 seconds and write down what you consider to be the problem” that your organization seeks to solve. Then go ask your staff to do the same. Ask your board members. 

See if there is consensus. You’ll be surprised at the results. Some may say that hunger is the key issue; others may say that it’s the feeling of abandonment; and others may say that it’s hygiene that should be the focus, not irrigation. 

You can crystallize the message over time. That’s not something you need to worry about now.

It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be a problem, a problem that donors can solve.  

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