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Fundraising Dilemma No. 4: The Product or Hope or Misery Dilemma

Updated: Jun 26



For-purpose or For-profit? Hope or Misery?


Many fundraisers are drawn to fundraising ‘products’ which are really more aligned to transactional sales models used by for-profit companies rather than the fundraiser-donor relationship model that for-purpose organisations should be aspiring to, ideally. 


This occurs mainly because fundraisers feel pressured by the cost-ratio factor, (Fundraisers’ Dilemma No 2.: The Cost Ratio Dilemma) and there are products, ways and means which appear to offer short-term  solutions, or quick fixes. 


As we’ve discussed here before, it’s a fallacy that fundraisers need to keep costs as minimal as possible to raise more funds. The opposite is true; you’ve got to spend to earn the big dollars in fundraising. 


Take for example ‘child sponsorship’ and the brand ‘Plan International’. Child sponsorship has been a relatively successful transactional product in the fundraising arena, but it is actually not very effective when it comes to curating lasting relationships with donors, or Donor Lifetime Value


Plan realised this and so have changed tack, to a mission aligned fundraising position with the theme Because I Am a Girl. (The global campaign to transform girls’ lives through education, Because I am a Girl, ran from 2012 to 2018.) Not only have they differentiated themselves from the other child sponsorship agencies, they have attracted new high-value donors who share Plan’s mission to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of deprived children in developing countries. With this shift in strategy, Plan is empowering its donors, itself and its beneficiaries, positioning itself as the lead organisation on girls’ rights and empowerment. 

Moving away from the ‘fundraising product donor ask’ to an ‘emotional fundraising donor ask’ drives long-term donor engagement, adding to Donor Lifetime Value - and draws greater giving. No doubt the initial outgoings for Plan increased in order to make this move, but the long-term rewards will prove absolutely worth it for everybody involved.

 

Should the lasting relationships we build with these donors be based around hope or misery? This is an often-posed question (strange as it may sound!). What is being asked is - should campaigns centre on the suffering of those we are endeavouring to help, or should we be highlighting the hope – the positive outcomes? The answer is – you need both. Donors need to feel that disconnect with their own values when they are presented with miserable scenes. However, when they are shown the light at the end of the tunnel – the hope – that’s when they become motivated to give. 


Furthermore, to best cultivate abiding relationships with donors, we need to let them know how their giving has actually given hope, had significant positive impact, and helped to do away with some of that misery they saw. 


This requires end-to-end alignment of the For-purpose organisation. Programs and fundraising itself need to be connected, just as the fundraising team and donors need to be connected – in the loop – with the stories of hope and achievement, which perpetuate the relationships, the generosity and the great outcomes. 

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