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Aligning Fundraising Values With Your Audience

 I’ve found it interesting to watch the newspaper and magazine industry try to find a pathway to sustainability, given that traditional subscriptions and advertising are no longer a prescription for survival. We’ve seen newspapers using strategies that public media organizations and other nonprofits have used for decades. Some of the most successful approaches advance traditional fundraising ‘asks.’  

My local daily newspaper no longer asks me to ‘subscribe,’ they want me to be a ‘member.”  I’m not sure what I will be a member of, other than an informed member of society who supports an independent free press.  

Mother Jones, a news and commentary magazine, knew that to survive, it needed to ask for nontraditional financial support from its readers. In a Nieman Labs article CEO Monika Bauerlein said, “We are convinced that the traditional models of paying for high-quality public service journalism have already collapsed. Aligning both the organization and the audience around the idea that journalism is essential infrastructure for democracy and that it has to be supported by the small-d democratic public that it serves makes it all feel like it’s all pulling in the same direction.” 

That’s a powerful appeal.  I think most would agree. But then why do I read so many fundraising letters that try to convince me to contribute so that the group can reach its goal, or meet its budget, or allow them to pay for something that they need? 

A more effective approach is to understand what your supporters value and then describe how their support will help your group sustain that value.  

Make sure that you use the language that your supporters use to describe those values. Then create a sense of urgency so that the person will take action right away.  

When you write your fundraising message, make it personal. Don’t speak on behalf of the organization with a “we” (We hope that you will join us).  Use the first person,  “I” (I hope that you will join me).  

Use the person’s name. (Bob, your desire to help…).  

Finally, share the passion of your supporter for the cause.  

As Bauerlein reminds us, we have to align both the organization and the audience in all of your appeals.  


See the original article that explains the Mother Jones strategy.   

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