Does your fundraising have enough tension?

On the surface, charity seems like a mystery. Why do perfectly sensible people give away their hard-earned money – often sending it off in the mail or the digital ether, never to see it again?

Written by
James Read
June 02, 2013
Tension energises action.

I believe one of the most important reasons is tension – the unpleasant, painful contrast between how the world is and how we think it should be. Unfortunately, many nonprofits today are shying away from the tension that energises action. Their brand guides command them to appear hopeful and happy, as if everything is blissfully under control.

This is a mistake.

In order to be successful, your fundraising needs these four building blocks:

1. The vision

Visionaries all: Steve Jobs, Aung San Suu Kyi, Emmeline Pankurst, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

It’s part of the human condition – we all believe the world should be better than it actually is. How we envision ‘better’ depends on our upbringing, our emotional makeup, our religious/political beliefs, etc. Your organisation must tap into humanity’s innate desire for a better world.

2. The problem

This is where things get tense. The world is full of problems and they create horrific gaps between what we believe should be and the reality around us. Make sure your nonprofit is clearly focused on a problem and never be ashamed to talk about it.

3. The idea

In order to raise funds, you must also have an idea about how to solve the problem – how to reconcile the painful gaps. You must champion a solution.

Does your message ignite your donors to action?

4. The team

In order to give, donors must have a sense that a group of caring people, acting together, can implement your idea and make the world better.

These four things together (vision, problem, idea, and team) create a cause – something that people will join, believe in, fight for and support.

But never forget that the energising force for a successful cause is tension. It’s the gnawing agitation we feel because of the problem that blocks our vision for a better world, and the suspense over whether our team can implement its idea to make things right.

So if you want your cause to advance, make sure this tension permeates your brand and your fundraising materials. When you’ve decisively beaten the problem, then your brand guide can tell you to emphasise the positive. Of course, no one will donate to you then – they will have moved on to the next problem.

Does your message present the vision, problem, idea and team to ignite your donors to action?

About the author: James Read

James Read

James Read, believes the best days of fundraising are ahead of us. A creative director at Grizzard in the USA, he focuses on understanding how rapid changes in technology and culture apply to strategy, messaging and copywriting in nonprofit fundraising.

Recent Articles

26 tips for more effective fundraising writing

Write like a tabloid journalist. Use emotion, even overdo it. Write a paragraph about your donor. These are just three tips of 26 from the great Jeff Brooks (of the Bad Ads Showcase fame) that will help you become the best writer possible. 

Read more

Fundraising stripped naked: what matters in the end?

Freelance copywriter Jennifer Ruthe takes us back to basics and shares her top tips for how to be a successful fundraiser, even on a shoestring budget. From 'My first weeks as a fundraiser', SOFII’s series for those starting out in the profession.

Read more

World-changers at Work presents: SuperTeds

These ten inspirational TED Talks lay out frameworks for making the world a better, fairer place through our work environments and interactions with those around us.

Read more

From the Mythsmashers: ‘Fundraising isn’t a serious profession’ - smashing that myth.

‘To call us a not for profit is a disservice and to say fundraising isn’t a real job, is simply not true.’ From the Fundraising Institute of Australia’s exceptional Mythsmashers session comes this impassioned deflation of that most pernicious of myths - that fundraising isn’t a profession.

Read more

The BADASSforGOOD podcast. Episodes six to ten.‘I might just ruffle a few feathers’

Mr Badass is back! We bring you five more short, sharp and provocative podcasts from R. Trent Thompson that will transform how you think about your non-profit brand and the impact it makes.

Read more

Also in Categories