Whats next for Fundraisers
Crises Fundraising

VIDEO: What’s Next for Fundraisers? We Have Bad News and Good News

You might have heard there’s a post-pandemic “slump” coming for fundraisers.

Is it going to happen? And what can we do about it?

We have two short answers for you:

  1. Yes, a slump in giving is almost sure to happen in the coming months.
  2. But how damaging it is to you is almost entirely up to you!

The health crisis part of COVID-19 is already past in some places (though not even close in others, including the US).

After the health crisis comes the economic crisis. (Of course, the economic crisis was already with us, but it was largely overshadowed by the disease itself.) And here’s the hard part: Fundraising in a recession is difficult.

Find out what you can do to weather this new difficult time that is coming.

It’s not as bad as you think!

We all do the best work when we stand together, especially in hard times. That’s why you should look into The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a powerful, global community of great fundraisers who support each other. You also get access to tons of tools, tips, courses and more to help you build your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

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Loch Ness Monster blog post

Is the Donor Fatigue Monster Hiding under Your Bed?

Most children go through a phase where they believe there’s a monster hiding under their bed. It lives only in their imagination, but it really terrifies them.

Why do they do that?

In all the history of the world, all the children in all the beds, has there ever been a monster?

[Jeff goes and checks under his bed, just to make sure.]

No. I’m quite confident there are no monsters under any of the beds.

Kids imagine monsters under the bed as a way of giving focus to their amorphous bedtime fears: fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of abandonment, etc. Those things are hard for them to understand, hard for them to describe.

So they create something concrete to focus on: A monster. Nearby, but out of sight.

In a way, that monster is a kind of comfort. It’s scary, but that may be easier to handle than the real fears that they don’t fully understand.

Fundraisers do the same thing.

They have plenty of things to be afraid of. Changing donor demographics and habits. Changing technology use. Rising costs. Leaders who don’t get it. And fundraising is just plain hard. All these things can sink your fundraising.

So we have created something to focus our fear on:

Donor fatigue.

Donor fatigue is a dark fantasy we fundraisers create in our minds to give focus to our fears.

Like the fears of children, some of our fears are not reasonable; they flow from our ignorance. But some of our fears are very real. It’s hard to tell the difference between the realistic fears and the unrealistic ones. That’s why a made-up bogey man like donor fatigue thrives in our profession, despite the fact that it doesn’t really exist.

Let’s start our conquest of the donor fatigue monster by describing it:

Donor fatigue is a theoretical condition in which donors — all of them, or at least an awful lot of them — get tired of giving and become measurably less responsive to fundraising. The extra-scary version has it that donors not only tire of giving, but turn against us fundraisers and opt out of all giving entirely because they’re so fed up with our fundraising. It’s usually described as fatigue about a specific topic — usually a famine or other large-scale disaster, but sometimes it’s giving in general.

Okay, no kidding. That’s super scary. If it ever actually happened, it would really be something to focus on.

But, as you’ll see, donor fatigue doesn’t really happen.

Except in one way, and this is what should worry you: If you believe in donor fatigue, it becomes real. (I’m pretty sure the monster under the bed never does that!)

Here’s how it works:  You believe in donor fatigue — you believe donors will not respond — so you don’t bother asking them to give.

Not being asked, they don’t give.

Presto! A monster materializes out of nowhere. Donor fatigue has become a reality!

But it’s not caused by donors. It’s caused by fundraisers.

The monster of the moment is “coronavirus fatigue.” It’s a belief that we’ve completely tapped out donors with our fundraising about the pandemic and its impacts. They’re just sick of it, and they will not respond!

I have not seen any evidence of this. Those fundraisers who are still putting out those messages are still doing well. Not all are getting the jaw-dropping results they were getting a few weeks ago, but they’re still doing better than normal.

So your best course of action is to ignore the monster under the bed. Continue raising funds. That is your path to success.

But let me throw you a curve: Something like donor fatigue really does happen sometimes.

For the scared kid, there’s no monster, but it might turn out there’s a spider under the bed — and what is a spider but a very small monster?

Your spider under the bed is this: As with all disasters, the pandemic and its aftermath will eventually fade as a motivating topic for donors. For all of us, there is coming a time when something other than the pandemic is more effective at moving donors to give.

That’s not an “if” — it will happen. We don’t know when. We’ve all been surprised at how long the high responsiveness to this crisis has lasted. Far longer than any other crisis in my career. My guess is that the drop in giving to pandemic messaging will happen at different times and different speeds depending on where you are and/or what fundraising sector you’re in.

Two things that will serve you well between now and when giving starts to dip:

  1. Keep your finger on the pulse of your donors. Until you see a steep drop in responsiveness to virus-related fundraising, you should keep doing it. But when that drop happens, be ready to pivot to other messages.
  2. Don’t decide for your donors that they are fatigued! That’s their decision, not yours.

I know you’re tired of talking about the pandemic. I sure am. But that’s not a reason to stop talking about it — if it is still a concern for your donors.

Base your fundraising on knowledge. Not on fears.

Don’t believe in donor fatigue just because someone says it’s happening — but they don’t offer evidence. And don’t believe it even though it feels believable.

Because when you fall for the donor fatigue myth, it will become a reality.

One of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of donors is to belong to a community of smart fundraisers who share knowledge. That’s what you’ll get when you join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a true community, the thing we all need most right now — plus all kinds of courses, templates, checklists, and other resources that can help you go to new places as a fundraiser. More information here.

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CFRE Points:
Pop Art Fear

The One Thing Every Fundraiser Should Be Afraid of Now

It’s March 4, 1933. The Great Depression has been going for three-plus years, and is at its lowest point. People are terrified. Some say it’s the end of the United States, of the whole Western World.

A new US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, steps up to the podium for his inaugural address. He was a change candidate and won by a landslide. Now he has to make good on the promise people voted for. What he says in this speech really matters.

The speech he gives is his famous “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech. We’ve been quoting that phrase ever since whenever anything scary is happening.

What we seldom repeat is the rest of that sentence about fear itself:

…fear — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

That’s something we need now, while we face another frightening situation.

Because, like then, we’re in a bad situation. But bad as it is, there’s something else that could do a whole lot more damage than the situation itself…

It’s fear.

The bad decisions — or complete inaction — that come from fear can make a bad situation much, much worse.

And, sadly, we’re seeing that happen with nonprofits.

They try to raise funds, but they are so driven by fear, they can’t get it right. Not even close.

It goes something like this: they commission a committee of 17 people to group-write their fundraising piece. Probably no fundraising professionals on the committee (who needs them?) — just wall-to-wall VPs, with a few lawyers and accountants thrown in.

The committee chews on every word, settling on the least powerful one they can all agree on. Then they add clause after clause to each sentence to make sure every base, real and imagined, is covered. And they make sure nothing is vivid, or strong, or urgent.

The end product: Fundraising of such thundering incompetence that even in an urgent situation like the one we’re in, it raises a fraction of what it could.

Worse yet, they really cover their rear-ends by going completely silent.

They’re crippled with fear that something they say might cause some kind of terrible blow-back from donors. I don’t know what kind of fantasy scenario it might be. Maybe they imagine every single donor being disgusted by their daring to speak out loud during a crisis and walking away forever? A malpractice lawsuit? A violent uprising with torches and pitchforks?

Hide like a rabbit in a hole. Nobody will blame you for anything if you do that.

Except the go-silent approach guarantees years of financial pain, long after this crisis is over.

Neither approach should be acceptable. Ever. But especially now, when fundraising so urgently needs to be good!

Here’s what everyone in our sector needs to do: Cast out fear! We need fundraising heroes who act with courage right now. We need more courage right now, not less!

Here are some steps that can help you act more courageously:

  • Dramatically scale back your approval process so it only has people who know what they’re doing — two or three at most! — and each one has a specifically defined area of knowledge about it.
  • Choose action over inaction. It’s nearly always the right course.
  • At every decision point, choose the bolder, reasonable alternative.
  • Lead your leaders. They carry weight on their shoulders that often causes them to choose the way of fear. Help them be brave by being brave yourself. (And if they are unleadable, start planning your personal exit strategy.)

You will make mistakes. Everybody does. Fear doesn’t eliminate mistakes — it just adds to them.

I read somewhere that the Bible has the phrase “fear not” 365 times. I don’t know how accurate that is, but take it this way: Every day, don’t be afraid.

The book sci-fi classic Dune by Frank Herbert has a powerful litany against fear. It starts like this:

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

This is a scary time. You have worries about your health, the health of your loved ones, the economic distress that’s hitting so many, the malfeasance of some political leaders.

But act with courage.

You’ll have better outcomes for yourself, your organization, and for all of us.

Another way to combat fear is to be part of a community of people who are facing the same things you are. You can find that by joining The Fundraisingology Lab, which offers one of the best Facebook communities in the world (just ask our members). Find out how to join here. Or check out our free Facebook community, the Smart Fundraisers Forum.

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CFRE Points:
pop art man bashing head against wall with money CROPPED 123rf e1589151753257
Boards and FundraisingCoronavirus

This Nonprofit Leader Needs to Resign. Do You Have Someone Like That?

What I’m about to tell you is a true story. In fact, the story is still playing out, which is why I’ve changed some of the details to hide the identity of the players. You’ll see why pretty quickly.

A couple of weeks ago, a smart nonprofit did a COVID-19 Crisis campaign consisting of several urgent email messages.

They are not a “front line” organization working directly to help fight the health crisis or its economic fallout. They are a well-known and beloved organization. It’s likely you’ve heard of them. The challenge they face is widespread cancellations of their main programs. This has blasted a devastating hole in their revenue that threatens the viability of their program once they are past the “social distancing” phase. They were looking at wholesale layoffs of staff and other possible draconian steps just to keep the organization afloat.

That was the topic of the appeal. And they did a great job. That’s not just my opinion — their donors responded at record levels: Orders of magnitude more than they typically got from their fundraising campaigns. Enough revenue to free them from the painful budget cuts they’d been considering.

A resounding success.

But not everyone was happy.

A member of the executive team, a certain vice president, is furious. He says the crisis campaign was grossly insensitive, immoral and permanently damaged the organization’s reputation. He’s calling for resignations from the fundraising team.

I think it’s the VP who needs to resign.

But before we fire up the petition campaign to remove him, let’s take a careful and rational look at his case: Was the COVID-19 fundraising campaign wrong?

The common fear we hear about fundraising during this crisis is that it is insensitive or exploitative. That the message may reach people who have lost their jobs, taken serious hits to their investments, or lost loved ones to the virus. Or that somehow it takes unfair advantage of the emotional turmoil so many of us are in to squeeze donations out of people who otherwise wouldn’t give.

It’s quite possible that the VP even heard a complaint from someone who was offended by the campaign in some way.

Let’s ask ourselves: If the organization’s reputation were damaged, what would be the signs?

  • Extremely low response to the fundraising? That would be a reasonable sign that they’d made a mistake by fielding this campaign. But that’s not what happened. They got an outpouring of support. And they are not the only ones. Organizations all over the world have been getting record-breaking responses to their crisis fundraising.
  • A massive public backlash? That could happen. But has it? We can assume that there were complaints. Strong fundraising can stir some to complain, even in normal times. You have to put complaints in perspective: If you got thousands of people saying YES with their money (as this organization did), how many said NO with a complaint? Does one complaint have the weight of ten donations? 100? 1,000? Wouldn’t you think it should go the other way, with one donation having the weight of many complaints? After all, it costs nothing to complain, but it costs something to donate. There would have to be an awful lot of complaints before you could call it a meaningful public backlash.
  • Maybe the damage is invisible — for now. Is it possible that some of those donations were somehow scammed out of unwilling donors who will eventually wake up to the mistake and never give again in disgust? To believe that, you have to think donors are incredibly sheep-like and irrational. Which strikes me as horrendously arrogant and disrespectful of the people who know and love and support the organization. They gave of their free will. Ask them if they want the money back. I can tell you what they’ll say: “Heck no! I gave because I wanted something good to happen!”
  • Or there’s an angry silent majority they will never hear from again. Even the strongest fundraising campaign only moves a minority of people to donate. But is there any business or any other human endeavor where you just assume that everyone who says nothing is united in some negative viewpoint? It simply doesn’t happen.

I think we can safely say that no meaningful damage has been done to the organization’s reputation or future revenue. Time will tell for sure, but if this emergency is like any of the other emergencies I’ve been through with nonprofit organizations, it’s almost certain that this campaign increased the connection and engagement of their donors, who are filled with gratitude that they could help make a difference for an organization they love.

They are stronger today than before the campaign. Plus they have revenue they would not have otherwise.

I’m calling this vice president for being irrational and negative, for a toxic mixture of arrogance and ignorance about donors and human psychology in general. If I were his boss, I’d be asking for a resignation — and not just “asking,” if you know what I mean.

The unusual thing about this case is that the attack on fundraising came after the fact. Far more leaders (and board members) have been preventing fundraising from happening in the first place, for basically the same reasons.

They are just as wrong. And unlike the after-the-fact executive, they are inflicting deep, possibly unrecoverable financial damage on their organizations.

And they also should resign. Their entire job is to make their organizations strong and healthy. They are doing the exact opposite.

If your fundraising tells your donors the truth about the situation, makes it clear what giving can do about it, and appeals to the better angels of their natures, your fundraising is not insensitive, exploitative, or reputation-damaging.

In fact, if your organization is doing something that matters — whether that is directly related to the virus and its impact or not — and you are not letting your donors be your partners in important work you’re doing — that’s terribly damaging in my book.

Do you really want to show up out of the blue some months from now when the crisis is behind us, saying, Hi! Remember us? We were hiding in a hole while you went through a major crisis. But now we’re back. Let’s pretend that never happened, okay?

Your donors love to donate. They need to donate, especially in a time of crisis. You are not taking something away from them when they give to you. They get so much back that you might argue they’re getting the better deal.

I hope you and your leaders are giving these issues good and clear thought. And if your organization is helping make the world a better place in the face of this frightening situation, I hope you are including donors as empowered, heroic people who are tackling the crisis and making a difference.

That’s what we’re here to do!

This crisis raises a lot of questions for a lot of us. Want some practical and experience-based help? Schedule a free 25-minute call  with one of our Moceanic 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.

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CFRE Points:
Pop Art Crises e1586142794344

[VIDEO] What Fundraisers Should Do — and NOT Do — During the COVID-19 Crisis

This is a must-see video for everyone wondering what to do next during the coronavirus crisis.

Today, I speak with long-time colleague Mary Anne Plummer of Exuberance Unlimited about what fundraisers should be doing — and NOT doing:

  • DO keep raising funds.
  • DO keep in touch with donors.
  • DO get back to basics.
  • DO stay on point.


  • DON’T spend time or money on activities that don’t directly produce measurable fundraising revenue.
  • DON’T do expensive, fancy direct mail packs.
  • DON’T aim campaigns at Millennials.
  • DON’T keep changing direction.

I hope this useful and fun discussion will help you to do your best in these hard times!

Looking for help through this crisis and beyond? Check out The Fundraisingology Lab. It’s the best training on crisis response and everything else you need as a fundraiser — plus the coolest, most helpful fundraising community in the entire world! Find out how you can join today!

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Pop Art Planet Earth in hands e1555454303137

VIDEO: Fundraiser’s Guide to the Australian Fires — and Other Disasters

The Australian multi-state bushfires are an emergency of mind-boggling proportions.

It calls for response.

And donors around the world are responding.

Emergency fundraising is different. It has its own “rules” and calls for a rather different strategy from normal fundraising. And it has impact on almost everyone, whether you raise funds for the emergency or not.

This emergency has another unfortunate distinctive: Unlike an earthquake a major storm, it is not a quick hit that fades from awareness right away. In fact, the fires are likely to burn for months. That means the urgency to act immediately is lessened. But it also means we will likely struggle with a kind of “donor fatigue” as it comes and goes from the headlines.

Watch the video for more about what you should do in response to an emergency.

Here’s a quick look at what you should be doing:

  • If you are an Australian organisation with work impacted by the fires: This is your time. You should put a lot of effort into your fundraising. Do things right, and you will get new donors, and more revenue from your current donors. But your new donors will have a very low retention rate. See the video for how you can deal with that.
  • If you are an organisation outside Australia with work in the fire areas: This is also your time, but it is likely to fade sooner. Act quickly.
  • If you are an organisation involved in fighting climate change: Because the fires are among the most dramatic signs of climate change, you should emphasise this crisis in your fundraising.
  • If you are an organisation that has nothing to do with the fires: Keep calm and carry on! You may see somewhat lower results to your fundraising efforts — or you may not. But don’t decide for donors that they aren’t interested in your cause too while the fires burn. Cancelling fundraising activities will do far more damage than the fires can. (If you have a lot of donors living in and around fire-affected areas, you may experience more extreme losses of your fundraising.)

Related posts:

Want extra help dealing with this or any other disaster? Join The Fundraisingology Lab for the best training and most helpful community in our profession!

CFRE Points:
Do long letters in fundraising still work?
Direct MailDonor PsychologyMajor and Mid Value Donors

The Weird Power of Long Fundraising Letters

Long letters work better.

But don’t just take it from me.

Dr Barnardo wrote a four-page appeal letter in London in the 1880s using classic direct mail techniques: Underlining, urgency, dollar handles, specific ask and a clear reference to what YOU could do to help. The winter had been ‘the severest and most arduous, so far as work among the children of the poor is concerned.’ So the good doctor needed to raise £100 a day for food.  He told readers ‘unceasing demands upon our resources’ were having an unprecedented impact on his charity.

The four-page Dr Barnardo letter from the late 19th century.

Dr Banardos Long Fundraising Letter - it was very long!

Years later, another children’s charity, Starlight, had a rough year and they had decided to go public about their shortfall. Unceasing demands upon their resources were tough too. They asked for funds but also had a refreshing degree of honesty. The donor learned that part of the shortfall was because Starlight funding strategy relied too much on events and companies. After reading the press stories about their plight I pulled together an ’emergency’ appeal to their donors and met up with them. The emergency appeal was only developed to show how I work, but they decided to mail it immediately anyway.

Starlight Crises Letter

The opening paragraphs of the Starlight letter

It would never win awards for graphic design beauty. But the appeal raised over target. It more than doubled the amount raised from the same donors the previous year.

At the heart of the appeal was a four-page appeal letter.

Despite the rise of other media, direct mail is still the biggest source of new one-off donors.  So it is important we maximise revenue from mail donors.  And longer letters will tend to do that for you.

I really don’t like long letters, by the way. They are a pain in the butt to write, check copy, get client approval, print and mail-merge. And someone important in most of our (Pareto’s) clients doesn’t like them. And they don’t look great in my portfolio. Though the results do.

In focus groups, donors say they dislike long letters too. In Hong Kong, one client ran focus groups which all concluded that donors would be more likely to respond to a pack with a two-sided letter and tear off coupon than a four-page pack (actually eight pages – English and Chinese) with lots of additional information. The two pager raised HK$1.5m (AUD$220k) – the big pack raised over HK$7.5m (about $1.1m).

Long letters work.  As you can see from the test results below.  These are from a revolutionary pack National Heart Foundation did more than a decade ago.

I know longer letters tend to work better, but not because they are long. I think it is because, to tell a good story with a beginning, middle and end and ensure the right fundraising tactics, it simply takes more words.

These tactics include target, what the target is for, deadline, establishing need, demonstrating the solution, demonstrating why that charity is best placed to solve etc.

A dreadful four-pager is worse than a good two-pager: If a story can be told more quickly then tell it. As Mal Warwick says ‘A fundraising letter should be as long as it needs to be…’

Long letters tend to work better with mid-value donors too. Maybe it is just about respect – good donor care to take the time to explain why the donor’s support is so important.

Ready to learn more about how to get the most from your mid-value donors? Check out my Mid Value Donor Super Course. It’s available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
How Do Disasters Affect Your Charity?
FundraisingMonthly Giving

How Do Disasters Affect Your Charity?

My heart and best wishes go out to the victims of the terrible hurricanes that hurtled through Caribbean countries and Gulf states over the past few weeks.

ADRA disaster appeal 2017

In terms of fundraising after the disaster, there are two ‘types’ of charities: Those working to assist in the disaster and those whose work is not at all related to the disaster.

IFAW disaster appeal 2017

Here are my essential tips for whichever you are:

Working in the disaster area?

Thank donors fast. Tell them what you are doing with their donation.

Make sure you follow up new donors with a second ask, quickly, by phone when you can, email when you can’t. This will get the best response EVER from this new group of donors and helps with on-boarding them to your cause.

Follow up again, before the disaster is off the news to ask for a monthly gift.

If you are working for a charity running disaster campaigns, check out this quick video on how to follow up:

Not working in the disaster area?

Don’t commit ‘tsunami suicide’.

Following the 2004 tsunami many charities who weren’t helping tsunami victims held back their fundraising campaigns. This was because of fear they wouldn’t perform well with all the tsunami media coverage.

They were right – they didn’t perform well. But mostly because they held back.

Do you have questions about fundraising after the disaster? Or would you like to share your own experience? If you’re working in disaster recovery or not, please post your questions and feedback on the Moceanic Blog.


If you would like to talk to me more about your disaster fundraising, I’d love to help. Book a free 25-minute chat and get even more great tips!

CFRE Points:
Passive-Aggressive Fundraising -- Just Stop It!

Passive-Aggressive Fundraising — Just Stop It!

Do you need your donors?

It’s a yes-or-no question.

There’s no maybe, no degrees of agreement. You need donors to make your work possible, or you have some other source of funding and you don’t need donors.

Even if donors provide a small part of your revenue, you still need them.

If you really don’t need donors, you can stop reading. You’re pretty much wasting your time reading this.

But if you do need donors — and I suspect you do — I have a second question for you:

Do your donors know you need them?

Harder question.

So, let me give you some ways of finding your answer with this quick quiz:

1. Which way do you ask for donations?
a. Your gift will help us save the majestic Homing Snail.
b. Your gift will help save the majestic Homing Snail.

2. Which way to you frame the need?
a. We’re grateful for the amazing support we get from the Gates Foundation, the Government of Canada, and several large Wall Street firms. Will you join the team?
b. Your gift will help save the majestic Homing Snail.

3. Which way would you describe what the donor’s giving will do?
a. Please do your part to keep our fight for the Homing Snail on track.
b. Please send your gift to save the Homing Snail!

If you answered B to all three questions, you’re on the right track.

But sadly, too many nonprofits live in a shadowy land where they need their donors to fund vital programs — but they don’t want to admit it. Their fundraising propositions go something like this:

Maybe you’d be interested in giving. But don’t worry if you don’t give. We’re a very well-run organization, and if you can’t give, we have many other sources of funding. You’re a small fish anyway, to be honest.

I’m exaggerating, but only a little bit.

A lot of organizations practice passive-aggressive fundraising. It tiptoes around the issue of need. It hints at asking. It expects donors to read between the lines and understand what they’re unwilling to come out and say. In my experience, this comes from two related fears:

  1. If we admit need, it may appear that we are not a well-run organization, and people will think giving to us is not a good investment.
  2. If we admit need often, we’ll be the boy who cried “wolf”, and people won’t take our need seriously.

It’s true you can overdo “emergency mode” and lose credibility, like that car alarm in your neighborhood that’s constantly going off. But if you’re truly in need, tell the truth. Your sense of what’s “too often” is certainly more sensitive than a donor’s. I’ve seen emergency funding shortfall appeals do well more times than I can count. And I’ve never seen repercussions to such appeals.

But there’s another reason it’s easy to fall into passive-aggressive fundraising: We forget that our donors are not us! They don’t know what we know. They don’t see what we see. They aren’t at the meetings. While we spend hours thinking about our organization and cause, they give it a few seconds of thought now and then.

That’s why our laid-back approach to fundraising doesn’t work. It fails to cut through the clutter.

Donors want to be wanted and need to be needed. So if you need your donors, go ahead and tell them. Let them know the urgency and the stakes. Be direct, strong, and clear. Don’t hide behind a passive-aggressive smokescreen.

It works, it’s respectful of donors, and (assuming you’re telling the truth) it’s the right thing to do.


P.S. Ready to make your fundraising message direct, powerful, and effective? Register your interest in the Moceanic Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits course that’s you can access in The Fundraisingology Lab. It will help you connect with donors in the ways that stir them to action.

P.P.S. Or, let’s be frank, the problem isn’t you … it’s your boss or your board that make you do passive-aggressive fundraising. Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits will equip you to show them the right way!

Please share your thoughts by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

CFRE Points:
earthquake aftermath3 e1513305941743
Digital Fundraising

Finding Committed Donors from Disaster Responders

I wrote this article back in 2015 following the devastating Nepal earthquake. Even though it was a few years ago now, the tactics and strategies on how to find committed donors from disaster responders still very much apply today.

A full step by step guide to finding committed donors from disaster responders is now available. Click here to download your copy now! 

A devastating earthquake hits Nepal.  Many people are killed, and tens of thousands are without shelter, clean water and food. International organisations from nation states, UN and NGOs respond fast. People all over the world see the disaster on TV, are stirred emotionally and want to help.

They want to do something to help. So they do what they can – and make a donation.

These are beautiful human beings that want to help others. They want to help strangers, often on the other side of the world in place they have never been and will never go. But they care. Some of these people are not ‘traditional’ donors. They have not responded to other media.

Jeff Brooks, Moceanic Fundraisingologist and author of fundraising blog Future Fundraising Now wrote in his recent blog…

“New donors you get through disaster fundraising will have terrible retention rates — tens of percentage points less than you’re used to. That’s because you get a lot of younger and less-committed donors who have no intention of ever giving again. There’s not much you can do about it other than avoid throwing good money after bad.”

I agree with his first bit, but not his last. You can do something about it.

Our latest study of Australian donors shows that the average regular giver (sustainer in American) is much younger than your traditional cash donor.

Mean ages are around 43 and 72 respectively. So, if emergency donors are younger they could be good regular giving prospects.



Indeed, they are. Many charities spend lots of money generating ‘leads’ for calling people to get regular gifts. They are pleased if they get 6% conversion on the phone. This usually means the donor acquisition costs are cheaper than their normal largest source of new donors, face to face.

But with emergency donor conversion in excess of 7% after a couple of weeks and the leads effectively ‘free’ we should be getting even better returns.

Charities who are already working on regular giver (sustainer) calling programs will find specialist agencies can quickly switch calls to emergency donors for a better return. If this could be done within days I imagine 10% response of those we speak to should be achievable.

But we can do even more – calling and emailing people and asking them for a second donation makes a lot of sense too. And it is worth testing a second gift ask, then a regular gift ask vs straight to regular giving.

In lieu of established testing, I propose this donor journey for new donors.

1. Charity appeals for funds in media:
a. Press ads
b. Social media
c. Digital advertising
d. TV ads
e. TV presenters appeal directly
f. Phone
g. Direct mail
h. Email
i. Radio
j. Through churches
k. Temples
l. Through corporate supporters.

2. Donations come in through these channels:
a. Online
b. Post
c. Phone
d. Fax (yes, there are still some!)
e. Collection points (eg banks)

3. Thank quickly – email, explaining that the donor’s money is having an impact straight away. DEBIT FAST. It doesn’t make sense to have an emergency appeal then not debit as quick as possible.

4. Follow up all donations that meet certain criteria with a second cash gift ask within hours – whilst the media frenzy is still happening.

5. Follow up AGAIN as media dies down, or within ten days – whichever is sooner, and ask for a regular gift (sustainer).

6. Thanking and updating throughout by email.

7. Use retargeting and social media to ‘follow’ these donors with ads and posts relevant to the emergency. And post-emergency, keep them in mind for acquisition campaigns.

When the Nepal earthquake hit I was working on an interactive article giving more detail on this plan.

I decided to make this available as a step by step guide, which will include how to work with the data, make the most out of the targeting, how to use social information, a lot of examples and more.

If you want the big step by step article, click here to download yours now.

CFRE Points: