Why Using Guilt Isn’t a Good Strategy for Attracting Donors

  • by Shala Graham
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If you are reading this article, the chances are extremely good that you have a lot in life to be thankful for. Given that much of the world goes without running water and adequate nutrition, the fact that you have access to a web connection puts you squarely in the wealthiest percentages of people living today.

But is that a good enough reason for you to donate money to one cause or another?

In theory, it should be, but as many nonprofit organizations have found out over the years, guilt makes for pretty poor strategy when it comes to attracting new donors. Here's why: it might work one time, but after that, people will (consciously or unconsciously) avoid the negative emotions that come with hearing from your nonprofit, and will start to avoid communicating with you.

Put another way, nobody likes a downer. In fact, we've all been conditioned by our biological makeup to avoid pain and heartache, even if we aren't aware we're doing it in the first place. There's a reason so many homeless people turn into top-notch copywriters when they're putting together clever signs to hold on the street – they know that the more they can make you laugh, or feel good about throwing some spare change their way, the more luck they're going to have.

The same is true for your nonprofit. It's okay to make potential donors aware of a problem, and even to give them a few grisly facts and statistics. But after that, layout a plan for improving the situation – including their part in it – so they can feel positive about the future, and walk away from their donation feeling like they've made a difference. It's just as easy as guilting them into writing a check would be, and it's going to be much more effective in the long term.

With all the problems and struggles going on in the world today, each of us probably has plenty we could feel guilty about if someone were to make a list but there's also a lot of good work to be done, and a lot of change for the better that could be on the way. Which one are you telling donors about?