Does your newsletter (and/or website) contain any of the following?


  • News about back-office staff.

  • Photo of well-heeled donor presenting a giant check to your organization.

  • Photos of people standing around (possibly holding wine glasses) at your fundraising event.

  • Articles whose sole purpose is to educate donors.

If you answered yes to any of these, your organization may suffer from Nonprofit Navel-Gazing Syndrome (NPNGS). This condition causes nonprofits to believe that their own understanding of the world must be shared by others—especially donors. This leads to a lack of respect for donors who “don’t get it.” This elitist attitude prevents effective fundraising.

The reality is that donors simply aren’t you. They’re less schooled in the fine points of what it takes to accomplish your mission.  Their view of what you do is less nuanced than your view. They are drawn to simplistic, even incomplete descriptions of your work—and the strongest philosophical argument can leave them cold.

Organizations with advanced NPNGS sometimes don’t even want support from “deficient” donors. They come to believe that they can get new and “better” donors who will appreciate them at a deeper level.

The sad truth is, they inevitably learn that there are few donors willing to spend the time getting up to speed on them. (Fortunately, that doesn’t means they’re unwilling to give their money!)

Donors are interested in you because of what you help them do. You are their agent in their personal mission to make the world better. That should be the topic of all your fundraising. Not the inner workings of the organization. Not the accomplishments of notable others. Not the need for raised consciousness or philosophical buy-in.

Your top-notch staff, your wonderful events, your well-honed methodology, your superior mindset—all these things are part of your uniqueness and your ability to accomplish your mission. But donors aren’t much interested in that. They just want to give to achieve clear results they can understand. Swallow your pride and meet donors where they are.

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