Empathy Empathy

Optimizing online fundraising with the Golden Rule

Fundraising can be a complicated industry. But at its heart is a simple rule—the Golden Rule. See how this timeless maxim can help you optimize your online fundraising.

Fundraising can be a complicated industry. But at its heart is a simple rule—the Golden Rule. See how this timeless maxim can help you optimize your online fundraising.

You’ve heard it before. The Golden Rule is one of those universal principles that just always rings true.

Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated

Or put another way…

Don’t Treat Others In a Way You Would Not Want to be Treated

If you gathered every truism and proverb from every culture or religion, some version of the Golden Rule would serve as a guiding light instructing us on how we should act towards one another.

If you think about it, it’s the same with fundraising.

There are thousands of strategies, tactics, and principles that you can follow to find success in fundraising. But the Golden Rule is an incredible way to sum them all up.

Solicit funds the way you wish someone would solicit funds from you.

Perhaps this strikes you as too simplistic.

But I posit that if we keep this top of mind when devising strategies or implementing fundraising tactics, we’re almost always guaranteed to get it right.

Golden Rule Fundraising

Let’s begin with what it would be like to start crafting your fundraising plan with the Golden Rule in mind.

If someone were soliciting money from you, how would you want them to do it?

You want clarity.

One of the most grueling things about calls from telemarketers is that they take forever to simply introduce themselves. By the time I wrap my mind around who they are, I’ve decided I don’t have time to listen to anything else.

When people start by wasting your time, it does little to persuade you to give them more of of it. Quite the opposite.

It’s very much the same when we approach a potential donor with our cause.

If it were you, you wouldn’t want a fundraiser to waste your time with obtuse statements that leave you guessing at what they’re trying to say.

You’d want them to be authentic and clear.  Honest and confident.

When you provide a donor with clarity, you have provided them with an opportunity to engage with you and your mission. When you try to be clever or indirect, you are only introducing confusion and distance.

This is true for online fundraising copy as well. Don’t bury your value proposition deep in the copy. Get to it within the first paragraph or two if possible.

You want to be inspired, not pressured to give.

Almost everyone likes to shop for things they like. But no one likes to be sold to.

Personally, I like shopping for electronics. But I instantly reach for my imaginary Cloak of Invisibility when I am approached by a sales rep who then tries  to sell me some gadget or warranty that I don’t need and wasn’t looking for.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’re all just people. And whether someone’s job is to make a sale or ask for a donation, the goal is to connect on a human level.  Relationships—even between me and the gadget sales rep—don’t work when we see each other as adversaries trying to convince the other to do something they don’t want to do.

Again, it’s the same with fundraising.

Ultimately, a donor does not give to an organization—they give to people, because of people, to help people. Fundraising is personal because it’s about a relationship. And true relationship begins with trust.

When we fail to connect with donors as people—they inevitably feel pushed, guilted, and unappreciated.

According to the Golden Rule, if you wouldn’t want to be treated that way—don’t do it to your donors.

So show your donors love in your online fundraising copy. Give the gift of clarity to your donors and they will return the favor.

You want to know you will make a difference.

Nobody likes when someone brags about everything they’ve done—so why do we do that so often in our fundraising?

When your appeal is primarily organizationally focussed—touting efficiency, legacy, awards, or philosophy—you are trading an opportunity to connect with your donors in exchange for self aggrandizement.

Too harsh?  Well, think of it this way.

There is no greater variable in the mind of a donor than trust.  And when it comes to trust, it’s better to first show rather than tell.  Share stories that reinforce how vital a donor’s contribution is, that highlight the impact of a donor’s contribution.  It’s not about saying your charity is making an impact—but rather—showing your donor how their contribution is fueling that impact.

Donor’s have a finite amount of money they can give, so they are looking to do the most good with what they have.

You wouldn’t want someone to ceaselessly brag about themselves and then tell you that they need your help to keep being amazing.  So instead, make the donor the hero of your story.

It’s what you’d want from your charity.

The Golden Rule is a Way of Life

Of course, there are so many things we could talk about in regards to the Golden Rule.

But this post is really a call to us all in the fundraising industry to work at raising donors in the same way we’d want someone to approach us.

The Gold Rule isn’t a strategy. It’s a way of life.