JEFF BROOKS on the Ben Franklin Effect.

image I know professional fundraisers whose mental picture of donor goes like this:  Donors give to us with tight fists and gritted teeth.  Every time we ask donors to give, we withdraw from a limited pool of good will—and every time they give, an even bigger withdrawal happens.  Nonprofits subsist on a tragic irony:  While they seek to do good in the world, they rely on fundraising—which is a bad thing.

That’s balderdash.  Self-destructive balderdash.

Donors love to give.  They love the organizations that create outlets for their generosity.  The more they give, the more they’re likely to give.  (In fact, the top indicator of likeliness to give is recency of the previous gift!)  They like being asked, and they like even more saying yes.

Furthermore, giving can lead to other forms of involvement: Volunteering, advocacy, recruiting others.

It’s called the Ben Franklin Effect.  Because Franklin once said:  He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than whom you yourself have obliged.”

That’s the rich, wonderful ground you’re on as a fundraiser:  Giving begets love.  Every time a donor gives, they grow more bonded to your organization.  More likely to give again, more likely to give larger gifts.  More likely to tell her friends about you.  More likely to answer other calls to action. 

Reality is directly opposed to the belief that donors are a non-renewable, zero-sum resource and that fundraising is a necessary evil.

A lot of the world of commerce is win/lose.  One side gains at the expense of the other.  Not fundraising.  The only losers here (other than frauds) are those who don’t join the circle, who hold back out of fear, who fail to see how much donors love what we do together.

(Photo courtesy of Stockxpert.)


imageJeff Brooks is creative director at Merkle|Domain, a direct-response agency serving the nonprofit world.  He blogs at the Donor Power Blog.

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