Make Me Care

I can’t quite keep up with Jeff Brooks.   I keep reading blogs of his I want to comment on, but then he posts three more.  So this is a couple of postings back, but in Crummy Copy Hurts he makes such an important point:  “Many,” he says, “maybe most, nonprofits describe themselves in dull, bloodless, jargon-laden deadweight statements that will never move anyone to action.” Are you one of the many?

Part of the problem is that we tend to talk to ourselves.  We are passionate about our mission, therefore everyone should be passionate about it, too.  Moreover, we are sure that the reasons for this passion are self-evident, therefore we don’t need to explain.

What makes this stance truly odd to me, is the reticence I encounter from the same people when it comes to fundraising, especially fundraising from folks beyond the usual suspects (those who have given, student families at your school, patients from your hospital).

“Why would they care about us?” they ask, suddenly not sure about that whole passion-thing.

Why indeed?

First, of course, you have to talk to these people and make them care.  So instead of listing the things you do, think about the lives you change.  How does that work?  Tell me a story and get me engaged.

A friend of mine works for an organization that rescues cats.  Now, I like cats, but I’m far from passionate about them.  However, when she talks about the work they do she doesn’t tell me how they spay and neuter the cats, nor does she tell me about specific cats.  That would work with my friend Ruth who is a cat fanatic, but I am not so enamored.  However, when she tells me about the people who adopt the cats—the faces of the kids or the elderly man who talked about having something to care for—well, ok, so I’m more warm and fuzzy than I generally admit.

The point of course is that isn’t about you or what you do.  It’s about what you do that matters to your prospects and donors.

Janet Levine is a consultant and trainer who works with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn more about her workshops and services at