The Age of Super-Cynical Donors

Grumpy Senior Man with a Laptop ComputerWe just conducted a night of focus groups for a nonprofit organization that is fighting a chronic disease.

In one of the exercises, we had the first group, which consisted of the organization’s donors, write letters to the later prospective donor group to encourage them to support the fight against the disease with a donation.

The letters from the donors were heartfelt and moving. We in the back room were moved to tears as donors shared their stories of how the disease had affected their lives.

But when the prospective donors heard these heartfelt letters, they ripped them apart. Their cynicism of the letters was dumbfounding. It was truly a case of the message being lost in translation.

It’s clear to me that the long term affect of urgent and emotional appeals for funds have desensitized donors to mass communications. I can’t help but think that if these prospective donors could have been behind the glass during the first group their reactions would have been 180 degrees different.

Which leads me to believe that the “next big thing” in fundraising will be going back to Fundraising 1.0: Face-to-face fundraising. It’s the only way to break through the cynicism of this generation.

And that I believe that means leveraging crowd sourcing/peer-to-peer fundraising technologies to replicate the personal ask.

Personal asks aren’t just for major donors anymore. It’s for all donors.

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