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Most fundraisers use email the wrong way

Every marketing channel needs to be optimized and employed properly. Sadly most fundraisers are using email the wrong way. Email should NOT be used primarily for fundraising. Rather it should be used mostly to build engagement.

It should be used to tell stories, involve supporters, report back how gifts were used and make them feel good… not so much for asking.

Think of an email to a donor as you would an email to your friend. Would you only ask for money from a friend in every email? No, of course not. Maybe every once in a while. But you would do that sparingly and only when the time is right.

I wish fundraisers would finally learn to stop “blasting” and “start engaging”. Too many treat email like the button they press to get money out of an ATM. That’s not how it works. That’s not how donors want to be treated.

It CAN be used to raise money. But donors first need to get value. If fundraisers would provide more value in their emails, they’ll get more donations. If you give, you’ll get.

One would think people employed in the ‘charitable sector’ would understand the law of reciprocity. Nonprofits need to give first in order to grow their relationships with supporters to the point where they feel that they got so much value that they absolutely MUST give back.


More on this in my 10 Commandments of Engagement Fundraising here.


>> eBook: Fundraising is Broken
>>Shareable: The 8 Core Components to Engagement Fundraising


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  1. Troy P Mitchell May 8, 2017 Reply

    Absolutely, involving donors in the progress and impact of the organization has a much more profound impact than an email thanking them and/or requesting donations. Fully engaging supporters/donors to the extent they’re comfortable with strengthens the relationship and ultimately a fully committed support!

  2. Scott May 8, 2017 Reply

    Excellent, Greg! One of the basic principles of “good business” for any organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is to first give value. Was it Zig Ziglar who said that we cannot go to the fireplace and ask for fire without first putting in firewood. We give first. We receive in return.

    • Author
      Greg Warner May 9, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Scott. Yep. You can never go wrong with the law of reciprocity.

  3. Laura Waller May 17, 2017 Reply

    Whatsoever ye sow, ye shall also reap . . . . It’s important on the planned gift/major gift side especially to give the donor tools for self-discernment that leads to success. If you give them a pathway to success, significance, and security, they will return it. And I don’t think that means bombarding them with a lot of technical PG mumbo-jumbo that they may/may not be ready for or need. It’s about showing them how philanthropy creates value and meaning in every area of life.

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