Stop raising awareness - and start doing this instead

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is that I get to talk to passionate and talented people like you about one of my favourite things – fundraising!

Interestingly, board members, EDs, CEOs and fundraisers often share one thing in common – while they may use different words, they all see the same challenge as one of the biggest barriers standing between their organization and fundraising success.

“When I talk to my friends and colleagues, nobody’s ever heard of us.”

“If only more people knew about our great work, we’d raise a lot more money.”

“Before we invest in donor acquisition, we need raise more awareness about our organization.”

Raising awareness. It’s a barrier to great fundraising alright, but not in the way many people think it is.

It’s a barrier to great fundraising because of all the time and energy we waste wringing our hands about the people who don’t know about us!

There's a widespread myth that fundraising success is directly correlated with the level of awareness the general public has of your organization.

The reality is, fundraising success is not predicated on awareness.

Awareness is not necessarily a crucial pre-cursor to successful fundraising, especially as it relates to major giving.

If most small to mid-sized shops (and, to be frank, a lot of larger ones too) just took those same awareness raising energies and applied them to the major gift program, I’d wager they’d see ten times the results.

Use LAI to identify those folks closest to you, and most likely to give - and think of it as a super customized, personally tailored, one-on-one awareness raising campaign!

  • Linkage: who are some of the potential donors or supporters your organization is connected to? Think broadly about your network – it’s not only staff and board members, but other volunteers, and your existing donors too.

  • Ability: do those potential donors have the capacity to give your organization a significant gift? You get to decide where your major gift program starts. It doesn’t have to be six figures – a lot of smaller shops start their major gift efforts at $1,000 (or lower), with great results.

  • Interest: finally, and perhaps most importantly, does this potential donor have a passion for your mission and vision? If the interest in your work isn’t there, all the awareness raising in the world isn’t going make a difference.

And of course, as you are identifying your top potential donors, don’t forget about those donors who have already raised their hand, and said yes.

Is awareness raising holding your organization back from fundraising success? Or do you have a different perspective on this issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below!

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