ugly babies and fundraising

Look. There are two truths you need to believe to be successful in marketing and fundraising for nonprofits. These two are related. We’ll see if I can get you there.

The first truth is that all babies are just about the same amount of cute and ugly. (Stay with me). Don’t think of your babies. Or a baby in your family. Or please, please don’t think about those adorable grandkids of yours.

No. Just consider a random newborn you see. Let’s say 2 weeks old. You don’t know the mom. She’s a nice young woman you are standing next to in the elevator. Her exhausted eyes are beaming, and she lifts the corner of the bunny-print blanket so you can see his face . . . and there he is. A miniature Winston Churchill — red, puffy, blotchy cheeks and all. Seriously, the little guy looks like Churchill would look after a rough night of drinking to forget an imminent Nazi invasion.

The mom tells you that he has his Uncle Ned’s eyes. And you think, if so, Uncle Ned is having a rough go. But the mom loves, loves, loves that baby. And she can’t see what you see. She doesn’t see the drool or the blotches or squished nose . . . she sees an extension of her love. She sees a hope for the future. She sees the promise of a fresh life. She’ll lose sleep for this baby. She will sacrifice for this tiny life. She would kill or die to protect this part of her.

You see Winston Churchill minus the cigar, add a mashed nose.

You can never see what she sees. She feels what you cannot feel.

And she would never believe you don’t see what she sees. Incidentally, I recommend never, mentioning Winston Churchill when viewing a newborn; I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t go well. Even when it’s true.

A baby you love looks different than someone else’s baby.

Now think about your babies. The babies you’ve loved deeply. The baby that was anticipated and longed for. When that bundle of love arrived it that was no mini-Winston Churchill to you.

See? No one sees your baby the way you do. That’s truth #1.

Truth #2 is that fundraising for your nonprofit is that “baby” you love. You love your cause. Or you need the work and so you’re raising money for a cause and trying to love it (that’s a bad spot to be in but we’ll have to talk about that another time). Either way, you are focused on all the good your organization does. You see how you’re changing the world. You KNOW that if more people got your mailing or your email or read your newsletter or visited your website . . . if they somehow stumbled on across the information about the work your group is doing, they’d understand and open up their big fat wallet and give.

Sadly, that’s not true. It is true that fundraising can be a numbers game. It can be about getting enough people to encounter your message often enough. BUT many (most) of those people will never, ever see how beautiful your “baby” is. And that is the key.

It is never only about exposing people to your message.

It is about the right message. The right message is a call to arms that fills your heart with pride and hope. It’s trumpet calls and swelling choruses. It’s the reality of great challenges and hope in the face of crushing opposition. It’s a cry to join this battle.

Yet most people will never, ever engage. They can’t see how beautiful your baby is.

But some will. It’s not about Millennials or any other demographic for that matter. You have to find the people who are inclined to love your cause, whatever the generation or demographic.

A man who’s never, ever given a dime to a rescue an abused animal is a terrible new donor prospect for your dog rescue shelter. He doesn’t care about your “baby.”

But woman who’s given to help people experiencing poverty could be a terrific prospect for an after-school program for teens in a disadvantaged neighborhood. She is inclined to care about your “baby.”

If you want more donors, you have to sharpen your message so that people who are inclined to love your “baby” perk up their ears and can’t quit thinking about how they could change the world with you.

Don’t forget about Donor Confidential, the series telling real live donor stories. I’d love to hear your donor story.

And as always, I love to hear from you. Let me know what you think and how you solve this problem of babies and fundraising.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: 24732687@N00)

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Steve Thomas

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