You might have heard us talk about the importance of having emotions in your fundraising, but to stay far away from guilt.
If you haven’t: be very emotional in your fundraising, but stay far, far away from guilt. Now you have.
But one question we get pretty often, is a version of: “How can you say to never use guilt when you also say that I need to have consequence in my fundraising scaffolding?”
It’s a good question.
Consequence is a key part of scaffolding, which is the process we use to build successful campaigns. It lets your donors know that something will (or won’t) happen if they don’t give or if the problem isn’t addressed.
So…what’s the difference between guilt and consequence?
When fundraising is using guilt, it’s blaming the donor. Either blaming them for something that happened (“We have to shut down the Sloth Home program because donors didn’t give enough to fund it.”), or for something that could happen (“If you don’t give today, there will be a young sloth cold, hungry, and alone on our streets tonight.”).
In both cases, you’re giving the donor too much responsibility. And now the primary motivator for the donor to give is to eradicate the bad feeling your copy gave them. Not because they love you or care about your mission.
When you blame and shame a donor, you might get that gift—but you’ll never get another one. Because they’ll always associate you with that guilty feeling.
So…how do you have consequence without creating guilt?
Consequence should be based on facts. If X doesn’t happen, then Y will happen. There isn’t any emotion to it. You’re not making your donors feel bad about the consequence. You’re just telling them what it is.
The credit card company says “If you don’t pay your bill by this date, we’ll charge you interest and a late fee.” It’s not emotional, just facts. That’s a perfect consequence.
And it shows how consequence is needed. Without that consequence, what incentive do I have to pay the bill?
Your consequence statement(s) should be the least emotional parts of your fundraising. There should be emotion everywhere else—telling a story, making the letter or email personal to the CEO or Director, talking about why you’re fighting this problem. Even the salutation should have more emotion than the consequence part.
If your donors don’t know that there are real stakes to the problem, there’s less reason to give. Your donors’ giving will change things—either giving you more resources to fight the problem, enabling you to serve more people, or help in a new and better way, something. That’s great, but they also need to know the opposite.
Without giving from donors, we won’t have more resources to fight this problem, we’ll have to serve less people, we won’t be able to change the ways we help to meet the changing needs of the community.
It’s the single most important driver of donor response. Nine times out of ten, when we look at why a prospective clients’ fundraising has been underperforming, consequence is missing.
Yes, it’s a thin line to walk between guilt and consequence. But it’s absolutely doable. And you absolutely should do it.
Don’t be afraid of having consequence in your fundraising. It doesn’t have to make the donor feel bad. It shouldn’t. You can have consequence without creating guilt.
If you have any questions about guilt vs. consequence, send them to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.