message for fundraisingWhen was the last time you were confused?

Yeah, I know.

For some of us, it’s a daily occurrence.

And it’s not fun.

I don’t know anyone who LIKES being bewildered.

I want you to really get this:

Imagine you’re listening to someone who is trying to explain something. You’re just not following it and no matter how many times they try, you just don’t get it.

Reminds me of my physics classes in college. No matter how many questions I asked or how many times they tried to explain, I just couldn’t understand.

Wound up changing my major so I could get out of physics class. True story.

Is the reason you don’t understand because you’re not a good listener? Or is it because they’re a bad communicator?

Either way, it’s a problem, because unless the speaker finds a different way to convey their message, it’s lost.

Now, think about this – how many times have your donors been in that spot of being confused and not quite comprehending what you’re saying?
You’re trying your best to help them understand your programs and your mission, and they’re just not following you.

It gets worse. When they don’t understand, they don’t give.

So, here’s the real question:

Whose responsibility is it to clarify and simplify the message?

Yep. It’s yours.

Good messaging vs bad messaging

Your fundraising message will determine how much money you raise. You see, mmessage for fundraisingessaging is key to fundraising.

When people understand what you’re saying, they feel something, then decide whether to act. If they don’t understand, they won’t give, simple as that.

Good message for fundraising:

  • Resonates. It “lands” in the heart and mind of the listener/reader and makes sense. When your message resonates, you’ll usually see people nodding their head in agreement with you.
  • Motivates. It moves them to want to give. They understand the significance of the work your organization does and they want to support it.
  • Harmonizes. The right message gets people singing from the same sheet of music, so that everyone is in tune. You, your donors, and your volunteers all work together in harmony to deliver your nonprofit’s services to those who need it.

On the other hand, bad messaging bores people. It’s what causes them to stop reading your newsletter or appeal. It’s what starts their exit from your donor family.

Most bad messaging is very ego-centric. Look at how much more interesting it is when it’s donor-centric:

Ego-Centric Donor-Centric
For the last 20 years, we’ve been saving dogs and cats in our community. For the past 20 years, we’ve partnered with folks just like you to make sure that animals in our community get the care they need to live happy, healthy lives.
Through our 6 programs, we provide service to over 500 dogs and cats each month. Because of your support, we’re able to provide loving care to over 500 dogs and cats each month.
Our service area includes 10 counties in our region. We’re helping animals in 10 counties find loving homes.
We’re the only certified _____ rescue in our area. Our biggest accomplishment is helping dogs like Rex find a loving, forever home.
We’re a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Your gift is tax deductible. Check with your accountant for more details.

The donor-centric message for fundraising is juicier. It’s more interesting and compelling.

The ego-centric message for fundraising is boring. It’s very inwardly focused and makes people outside the organization feel like outsiders.

Bad news folks – all of us have shared the ego-centric crap at one point or another!

And here’s the good news – you can change it, starting TODAY!

Why vs What

message for fundraisingHere’s another way to think about this: spend more time talking about the Why versus the What.


If I were to ask you WHY your nonprofit does what it does, what would you say?

“To change lives”

“To save lives”

“To give people a chance to change”

“To give kids a brighter future.”

“To cure disease.”

“To end hunger.”

“To eliminate euthanasia of animals in our community.”

“To make the world a better place.”

Yours is either one of those or similar.

The WHY is the good stuff. It’s what we care about and what we can sink our teeth into. It’s what motivates us to give.

Unfortunately, most folks spend their time talking about WHAT they do and HOW it gets done.

Anytime you start spouting details about programs, you’re talking about the WHAT.

More bad news – people don’t care about the WHAT. They don’t really care about HOW you get things done either.

When you talk about WHY your organization does what it does, it moves people closer to giving. When you talk about WHAT, you’re boring people and pushing them away.

Here’s a good example of WHY messaging from our client BESTWA. It’s from an email appeal raising money to pay customs fees for a shipment of medicine. Notice that they talk about WHY the medicine is important, exactly how much they need, and exactly how you can help.

No surprise that they raised the money in just a few days.

Now, here’s part of a letter I received a couple of years ago. See if this moves you to give:

Ok, yeah, there’s another page with more info… but it’s a full page of “Ministry Impact Initiatives” [whatever those are!] that I have no desire to read. I read the first one and it’s jargon, acronyms, and insider language I don’t understand.

The Bottom Line

As I said to a client this morning, your message for fundraising should work for the person with the least amount of knowledge of your organization. If they barely know anything, will they be able to read and understand what you’re saying?

Will they get it? Or will you lose them.

Trust me on this one – you can’t afford to lose them.

Make your message for fundraising

  • Simple
  • Easy to understand
  • Concise
  • Jargon free

You’ll get more donations and your donors will appreciate you more.