cracking open the fundraising black box

This month's free fundraising masterclass features special guest Brock Warner. Sign up here:

This is a black box.

Things go in. Things come out (sometimes).

If we knew exactly what happened in that box, it wouldn’t be a black box. This is why a flight data recorder is often called “the black box” even though it isn’t black, or even a box. It’s a black box because inside is a mystery waiting to be solved.

For a lot of small nonprofits, this is what fundraising feels like. We do some things, something happens, and hopefully it raises money.

We all have our own version of a black box when it comes to fundraising, especially online. There is always a black box, and that’s not something to be concerned about.

Be concerned when you stop trying to figure out what’s inside the box.

Not everyone wants to know what’s inside the box. But if you’ve read this far then you must want to know. Kudos to you.

Here’s where it all starts for me. Strategy.

Ask yourself:

  1. Who are you asking?

  2. What are you asking them to do?

  3. Where do they take action?

  4. When are you asking them to do it?

  5. Why are you asking them?

These questions can be deceptively simple. They can be asked broadly of the entire campaign, e.g., “why are doing a year-end campaign at all?” Or, you can (and should) ask each question of the campaign components, e.g., “why are we sending this email to this person, on this day…etc.”

These questions help you break down the different fundraising components you're using to see what's working and what's not. Use these to figure out what you should be doing differently and what is working.

About Brock:

I’ve been a fundraiser long enough to have some serious questions, but not long enough to have all the answers. In my career, I hope to foster and place value upon the act of philanthropy, no matter the size of gift. As a professional, I value the ‘how’ as much as the ‘how much’ and desire to see the fruits of my labour and energy be a catalyst for positive change.

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