Resilient Fundraising with One Focus: Caring for Our Supporters

What should be the focus of our fundraising during this time of crisis?  Caring for our supporters. For me, the only right thing that is worth doing during this crisis is to care for the needs of our supporters and help them feel better. Because from there, everything else flows.

What does this mean practically? It means it is ok to send out a thank-you email without any asks in it. It is ok to send out a short survey that has no other purpose than helping our people feel better. It is ok to ask, because giving is the opportunity for human lives to thrive, no matter what!

How do we know if we focus on caring for our supporters that money will follow? Our research shows that very often, the same set of factors that increase giving, also help people feel better. If organizations focus on making their people feel better, giving can increase by up to 140%, repeatedly, from the same people, campaign after campaign.

Yes. That is right. When you focus on the factors that make people feel better in your communications, giving does not only increase once. Giving does not only increase twice. Giving increases, repeatedly, campaign after campaign.

So yes, focus on how to help people feel better in each fundraising communication. Money will follow. It is a scientifically proven fact.


How might you do that?

  • Step 1: Know what making your people feel better means in your situation.
  • Step 2: Make them feel better, in every communication you send out. It does not matter whether it is a thank-you or a solicitation.
  • Step 3: Make sure people can feel under their skin that giving makes them feel better.
  • Step 4: Repeat for as much as you can afford to repeat them.
  • Step 5: Count your money.
  • Step 6: The more you repeat the right things, the more you can afford to repeat them.

Learn more in the free webinar on resilient fundraising hosted by Blackbaud Nonprofit Solutions! 


How might you do that, exactly?

Know humans have the fundamental needs to feel competent, autonomous and connected. By helping people feel better, I mean, helping people to meet their three fundamental needs. Helping people to feel more competent, more autonomous and more connected in their giving. I will define these terms below. Then, you can increase people’s sense of competence, autonomy and connectedness in every communication you send out.

  • Competence

Definition: Giving to you must allow your people to feel under their skin that they (not you) can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those they (not you) care about.

For example, you can say:

    • Your $10 allows a father to know his family will be fed this week. (not $10 supports a family for a week)
    • Your 2x$10 allows a mother to know her daughter will have her medicine for two weeks. (not $20 supports a family for 2 weeks)
    • Your commitment of 4x$10 a month allows a family to plan the care of grandma and the study of two children in the face of the worst crisis that humanity has known in our generation. (not $36 supports a family for 4 weeks; If giving $40 makes people feel better, why deprive them of the opportunity and ask for only $36? If you cannot live with yourself unless you offer something, offer a matching gift instead of a discount)
    • Wouldn’t it be nice if you know, this family can do this for as long as this crisis shall last? (not join our monthly giving program for $36/month to support a family month after month)

What is meaningful is not what things they buy, but what they (not you) feel about the meaningful differences that they (not you) care about.

Tell them exactly what difference they make and let them feel the difference under their skin. And then maximize that difference. Do not discount that difference. Because we are talking about the lives that they care about here, who wants a discount for that??

  • Connectedness:

Definition: Giving allows people to feel connected to those that will make their own lives more meaningful.

This does not mean that you have to connect your supporters with those they help. It could simply mean that you allow your supporters to take their family and friends into account when they think about giving.

During this crisis, we conducted a study on a sample of over 600 people from primarily the United States and India. We found that thinking about any topic from the perspective of one’s own family and friends, help people experience a higher level of connectedness. Depending on the issue that we asked people to consider, this higher level of connectedness can be extended also to one’s community beyond one’s immediate family and friend circles. So when you ask people to reflect on a topic, do not say: What is most important to you? Say (whenever possible): What is most important to you and your family and friends?

As soon as people engage in thinking about their family and friends. It does not matter what you asked them think about. You have already helped them to experience a higher level of connectedness. This is what we mean when we say every communication must help people feel better. You do not have to measure that you have increased people’s sense of connectedness when you ask this question, because we measured it for you already.

You can just do it. And our evidence gives you the confidence that when you do: You will help your people feel more connected, even during this crisis.

  • Autonomy:

Definition: Giving allows people to feel that they can have a voice into issues closest to their hearts.

It is not enough for people to feel that they have a voice. They need to know that this voice matters for something closest to their hearts. How do they know that something is closest to their hearts? They think they are giving, not to another, but to a part of themselves.

Our situations are bad, but at least we have a roof over our heads. Those who live on the streets don’t. And now with this crisis, many of them do not even have a place to have a cooked meal. Their canteens are closed.

Our situations are bad, but at least we have a home. Many of those who are trapped in refugee situations do not even have that. And now with the travel restrictions, even their hope of ever getting out of the situations is put on hold, indefinitely.

No. Do not say that, because it makes people feel bad!!

Tell them sons who grew up shattered by street violence chose to become community volunteers during this crisis to deliver food for those who used to beat them up.

Tell them mothers in refugee camps chose to become volunteers to help others during this crisis.

Inspire them with the choices made by the people they chose to help in the past. Make the sons’ and the mothers’ successes, your supporters’ own successes. Make the sons’ and the mothers’ lives, your supporters’ lives, shone brighter.

Can you see the difference between the two ways of asking?

One makes people feel bad. One makes people feel good. Which one do you think is more likely to raise more money? Does it matter? Really?


Giving, especially giving during this crisis, is your people’s once in a life-time opportunity to

  • Live a more meaningful life;
  • Become a better human being; and
  • Experience the kind of competence, connectedness and autonomy that is never otherwise possible.

You can maximize that opportunity for your people.

Do not discount it.




Other questions:

How often should we ask for and for how much?

For as often as you can make people feel good. For as much as giving makes them feel better. It probably means that you will thank and connect much and much more frequently than you ask. You give more, then you receive more. You give a lot more, then you receive a lot more.


But we cannot afford it.

Well, guess why??


But is it possible that we communicate too often?

No. It will only become too often if you do not make people feel good! If every single one of your communication makes people feel genuinely better after reading your communication than before, then you can never communicate too often!


Hear Jen speak at a virtual event about resilient fundraising during the Week of Nonprofit Resiliency Events hosted by Blackbaud Nonprofit Solutions.