Fundraising is about solutions, not processes

Excerpted from my book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving.

Fundraising is about solutions, not processes

Fundraising is about two things: a problem and its solution.

Once you show your donors a problem and help them care about it, the next step it to help them see and believe there’s a solution. They can’t (maybe shouldn’t) give if they can’t see how their gift will change things. But a solution without a problem is decaf coffee at six in the morning. It doesn’t do the job.

Selling solutions is simple — yet somehow it’s one of the most elusive things in fundraising: sell the solution, not the process that produces the solution. Someone who wants a cup of coffee wants the morning fog to clear from his head. He doesn’t care about what it takes to move that caffeine from coffee beans growing on a mountainside into his cup and then into his brain.

Solution, not process. When you master this, you are a fundraising prodigy. Or a master diplomat. Probably both.

You have to be a diplomat because most likely everyone else in your organization, from the CEO to the guy who fixes the copier, is completely in love with your organization’s processes. They don’t want you glossing over these glorious processes in your fundraising.

To keep your solution in the donor’s realm, you must show the clear connection between the problem and the solution. It must not be the complex process that sets your organization apart from Brand X Charity, but a simple and obvious connection.

Simplicity is everything.

If the problem is hunger, the solution should be food. Even if the way you solve the hunger problem is through a complex process of economic empowerment, civil society, training trainers, or whatever it is. I’m not criticizing your processes. They’re good, I’m sure. But they are outside the donor’s experience.

And really, your process is effective at eliminating hunger because it results in food. Most donors aren’t interested in following the winding trail that leads from civil society to a child rescued from the grip of life-threatening hunger. And why should they be? Do you need to know how your cell phone works, or do you just expect it to work?

A well-designed process consistently followed is the secret to success. But that doesn’t make the process interesting. The success it produces is what we care about.

And that end product is what your fundraising must focus on.

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand is available at:


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Author Of this post: Jeff Brooks
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