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The Biggest Charity Fundraising Mistake You Can Make

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Published: Jan 15, 2019

It’s not enough to just have a good cause. Not anymore, anyway. Times have changed, and simply having your heart in the right place is not enough. You also need to be sure you carry out your fundraising efforts effectively – and part of that involves being aware of (and avoiding) potential mistakes.

So, you want to change the world for the better. That’s both admirable and incredible. More-so if you’ve decided to found a charity to do so.

Your heart’s already in the right place. Today, we’re going to make sure your head is, as well. We’re going to help you avoid one of the biggest blunders you can possibly make, both in your fundraising efforts and in your overall business strategy. See, successful charities and successful businesses both have one thing in common.

Good branding.

I’m going to assume you already know the basics of good storytelling. That to keep the attention of your audience, you need to be entertaining, engaging, and both emotionally and intellectually relevant. Here’s the kicker, though.

You also need to tailor your message to your donors. To figure out who your target audience is, and speak directly to them. If you fail to do that, there’s a good chance your message, no matter how inspiring, will fall on deaf ears.

And if that happens, your fundraising efforts are likely to hit a brick wall.

See, a lot of people assume that having a good cause is enough on its own, especially if they’re new to the world of nonprofits. And while you’re certain to attract a few prospects with any charitable cause, if you’re not tailoring your branding, your charity cannot reach its full potential. But how exactly can you do that?

Figure out who you want to market to

The most important question you’ll answer is who’s interested in your cause – what kind of people are likely to have the most investment in what you’re trying to do? They’re the ones you need to target. Create a few donor profiles that include key demographic information, and figure out how they communicate with one another.

From there, you can determine how best to craft a message that resonates with those people.

Focus on the people you help, not your organization

It’s important to be open and transparent about your charity’s background and history. By all means, make that information available on your website. At the same time, it should not be the sole focus of your marketing efforts. Instead, show people what you’ve accomplished – show the success of your cause through actions, not words.

Profiles of people you’ve helped. Video of communities you’ve worked with. Testimonials from those your charity has saved.

Stuff that makes donors feel good, and assures them that they’re helping you solve problems and save the world.

Keep things simple

Last but not least, follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Establish a coherent, consistent identity for your charity, and pare your message down to a few key talking points. Ensure you’ve a clearly-defined purpose and a clear set of goals, and that your donors are aware of them.  

Be straightforward, not confusing.

Closing Thoughts

Branding is far from the only mistake you can make with your fundraising efforts – but it’s the most egregious, and the most common. By building a donor profile that fosters an understanding of your target audience, you’ll know exactly how to tailor your message. And with that knowledge, you can attract the attention you need for your charity – and your cause – to truly thrive.


Author: Brad Wayland

Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.

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