Nonprofit fundraising: Let your fantasies live with actors and athletes, not your donor relationships

Let's talk about fantasies.

Not my fantasy relationship with John Cusack or my fantasy relationship with defensive end Chris Long. Let’s talk about the fantasy relationships we have with donors and potential donors and what's that really doing to hurt our ability to connect with the right kind of donors. 

What is a fantasy relationship? Let me give you an example. A few years ago I was looking for I  new school for my daughter.  So we started touring a bunch of schools and some of them are private schools that we're fundraising and we got on the list because we toured the school. She was first grade. She's in sixth grade and I'm still getting mail. And so what is the point of mailing someone something if they've never responded, never donated, never been involved?.

The point of that is that you're saying,”Well what if this month it's different? What if this month they change? What if what if we delete somebody who really did care? 

That's the fantasy. 

And I'm going to tell you it hurts to let the fantasy die. I use these are practices. I'm not perfect at this. I am learning as I go that that I'm not going to create fantasy relationships. 

I'm not going to keep courting someone who isn't really going to participate. We just weren't a great fit. And that's OK. Some people just aren't a great fit for your organization. We mail an e mail and invite and they don't respond and we think, “OK, just one more time. Just one more time.”

What we're doing is trying to convince people to care and you cannot convince people to care. You cannot change what's in people's hearts. What you can do is connect to like-minded people that share your organization's passion. And so by spending money, time, energy and resources on these fantasy relationships, you’re  losing money and you’re wasting time. And so we could be focusing on finding more like minded people. 

And that's why I teach you to be strong in your messaging because I want you to connect with like minded people and not worry about convincing people of the worth of your organization. That’s what makes fundraising hard. And that's what makes marketing hard and grueling because you're talking talking talking. And people just aren’t responding. And it's because you're you're still trying to maintain that fantasy. 

Your fundraising is going to be a lot easier and richer when you let go of fantasy or really focus on the people who care.

We all love these big lists. Oh my my e-mail is this 12,000 people. Well if it's 12,000 people who don't really care, what is the point of that? I'd rather you have 500 people with 100 percent open rate than 12,000 people and 11,500 don't care. 

And I know this is a fantasy because I know how we build our mailing lists. We build our mailing lists adding people randomly. We scrape names or email addresses from LinkedIn we go to conferences or conventions or networking events. And when we meet people we put their name on our email list.

First of all that's illegal. yYou cannot put people on your email list without their permission. Second, you're just contributing to a fantasy. “If I email them enough they will care,”…you're contributing to a fantasy. 

I don't want you to get discouraged about this because really this is a freeing thing. This is going to help you because you’re going to be really focused on connecting with those like-minded people and just letting everyone else go. 

I have to practice this every day. It is hard to let go. And when we do, work gets a lot more fun and easy. When we focus on really generating those like-minded donors and stop trying to convince people, it becomes a lot more abundant.. 

Want more? If this sounds like it fits you, consider enrolling in my Superstar Fundraising online course. I have been working in nonprofit marketing for 25 years.   I've actually been doing it for more but I hate to say it more because that makes me sound like super old. 

I packaged my intelligence into this course I'm going to teach you exactly how to have donors flocking to your organization like fans flock to superstars. I'm going to walk you step by step through the process. Go to and check out the details. IF you are not sure, sign up for time with me at I will tell you how well your current marketing is working to attract the donors of your dreams.

Until then, I will keep my fantasy relationship with John Cusack and Chris Long alive and work on not having fancy relationships with my potential clients and you can work on not fancy relationships your donors and potential donors. Until next time shine bright superstar.

Maryanne DerschComment