Pop art yellow yes

Discover the Power of Inclusive Fundraising for ALL Donors


Here’s some good news for fundraisers: If you make your fundraising work for everyone, regardless of their visual acuity, reading ability, attention, or knowledge and expertise — you make it better for everyone else too.

That means when you write, design, and publish your fundraising messages so they are easily intelligible to all people, you are not choosing an unsatisfactory compromise to accommodate part of your audience. You are creating fundraising that works better for everyone.

This isn’t theoretical. It’s a fact.

For decades we’ve been testing fundraising messages. More accessible communications raise more money. Time and time again.

It’s not just true about fundraising. In fact, we fundraisers are late to this way of thinking.

It’s a set of principles called Universal Design. It is most advanced in a few areas, especially education, where they’ve made some amazing discoveries.

In education, the drive to serve students of all abilities used to mean segregating students with different abilities into different classes or schools. That, it turns out, doesn’t always work. It has often (not always) meant students in “special” education got a second-class version of what the other students got.

And those with minor or unrecognized differences — like reading, learning, and attention issues – were on their own in the regular classes that made no attempt to be accessible to them.

Then they tried changing the curriculum so it would work for those with different abilities. There was immediate outcry, as parents said schools were “dumbing down” education, endangering their own kids with typical abilities.

But that’s not what happened. Making education more accessible for those with different abilities made it work better for all the students.

They weren’t dumbing things down. They were smarting it up!

It’s the same with the design of public spaces. Sometimes architects create striking spaces that are completely inaccessible to those using wheelchairs, walkers, or even canes to get around. They implicitly believe that making the space look cool is worth excluding a meaningful portion of the people who might want to use the space.

Guess what. Universal Design – making the space work for everyone, makes it better for everyone.

Universal Design principles work virtually everywhere they are applied.

Which brings us back to fundraising.

For decades we’ve been saying you’ll raise more money if you design for those with reduced visual acuity. Because it’s overwhelmingly true. And because age-related vision issues are widespread among donors.

But there’s another reason you should care about this: When you fail to design for those with low visual acuity, you are excluding them from the joy of participating in your cause.

It’s the same if you write in a complex way that’s difficult to read and/or use a lot of professional jargon – you are excluding a whole group of people from being your donors. You probably don’t mean it, but you are essentially saying, “Not everyone is good/smart/fit/cool enough to be our donor.”

And every fundraiser who refuses to “dumb down” their messaging is revealing an elitism that fails to value people who are different from them.


Let’s embrace inclusive fundraising. That means:

  • Design for readability. Avoid font sizes smaller than 12 point. (Bigger yet is better.) Plenty of contrast for text. No reverse type or type over photos. Keep eye flow simple and logical.
  • Write for ease of reading. Keep to a reading ease level of 6 or lower.
  • Avoid specialist vocabulary and jargon. Adhere to the principles of Plain Language.
  • Digital design to work with screen-reading technology. You’d be surprised how many people use screen readers. You might also be surprised how unusable many websites and PDFs are for this technology. (Open a PDF in Acrobat Pro and go to Accessibility Check. It’s likely the document will be a confusing spaghetti bowl for screen readers.)
  • Subtitles in videos. New technology has made this very easy to do. You can also make videos accessible in multiple languages without hiring translators.

And keep your eyes open for improvements in technology that help us make our messages accessible to even more people.

These things are not painful but necessary compromises.

They will improve your fundraising results.

We all have a lot to learn in this area (I know I do), but seeing fundraising through the lens of Universal Design will help make it clearer and easier to embrace. Because people want to donate. Making it hard – or impossible – to do so is a big mistake. It’s both harmful to your revenue and unethical.

Ready to embrace inclusive fundraising? Find your way forward by scheduling a free 25-minute call with one of our Fundraisingologists. They will give you great free advice, and help you identify which Coaching+ program might be right for you. Click here to book your call.

Related Blog Posts:

Previous Post
How to Tell Fundraising Stories and Avoid What Makes Them Go Wrong
Next Post
2 Fundraising Myths You Can Easily Avoid

Related Posts

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you Jeff. This is a really timely read. This sentence particularly, is one that resonates. “That means when you write, design, and publish your fundraising messages so they are easily intelligible to all people, you are not choosing an unsatisfactory compromise to accommodate part of your audience. You are creating fundraising that works better for everyone” It’s such a great credit based perspective. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Gabrielle! When nonprofits get past their fear of “dumbing down” their message, they’ll become a lot more inclusive. And raise a lot more money.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.