DickersonBakker Blog

Are Your Donors Saying “No” to Your Mission or Your Ask?

I was recently contracted to help an agency boost its fundraising performance. They just were not getting the response they thought they should. The mission was awesome and making a big impact in the community. However, donors were simply not responding in kind. Feeling pressure from the board, the executive director wanted to know how to turn things around. He simply didn’t understand why the community wasn’t responding.

The agency was threatened by changes in federal funding, and the director sent out an appeal to ask the community to help the agency become more sustainable. One letter stated, “Every dollar helps in our ultimate goal to someday become self-sustaining.” Why wouldn’t someone want to help make that goal a reality?

The answer is that it is too big. It simply wasn’t realistic. How could a donor, giving $500, help make a $3 million agency self-sustaining? $500 doesn’t mean anything toward a budget that big.  Thus, the donor is left feeling like they are sending their drop into the agency’s ocean. Not very compelling.

Last week, my seven-year-old son, Evan, stumbled upon the 2015 Christmas Gift Catalog from Samaritan’s Purse. The catalog has bright, affecting images of various different “gifts” that drew him in. At some point, Evan asked his mother about how he could give a gift. Being a big fan of sports, he was especially excited about giving sports gear to some kid on the other side of the world. “Mom, a lot of kids can play with just one soccer ball!” he said.  

Samaritan’s Purse is a $500 MILLION agency with an overwhelming mission. Yet, they wrote an appeal that excited my seven-year-old to give $12–all his spending money. Notice that Samaritan’s Purse did not ask Evan to help Samaritan’s Purse help all the hundreds of thousands of children they serve. Instead, they asked Evan to give a soccer ball to another kid like him. Samaritan’s Purse was just the logistics agency, not the star of the show.

Here are three questions to help you focus your ask and raising more money:

    1. Is your ask realistic?
    1. Does your donor know how their gift will make an impact?
  1. Who is the hero if the donor makes a gift?  The donor or the agency? 

We are in the process of re-working my client’s approach to asking for support. Asks will be more focused with dollar handles (i.e. $45 for a day of care, $2 for a meal, $8 for a soccer ball, etc.). Appeals will feature heart-touching client stories. And donors will give more generously because they are excited about giving to other people.

Is your fundraising underperforming?  Our team of consultants are experts in the fundraising field & can help evaluate your agency’s performance, making heroes of you and your donors. Contact us today.

Back to blog