Urgency Trumps Crisis Fundraising

  Urgency is an important part of fundraising. Crisis is a whole ‘nother thing. Getting your donors to feel that they need to give now raises excitement as well as money. Having them feel that you need them to give now is not such a positive experience.

Too often, nonprofits look at need through their own lens. We need; we must have. Too often that need is very real—we must raise X or our doors might close. At the least we will have to cut programs and people.

This may feel urgent to you, but to your donors it is crisis. And you can only use crisis as a fundraising technique once.

A one-time crisis can feel to your donors much like a natural catastrophe, where the immediacy and clear calamity makes you reach into your pocket and give. But, just as most people give once to help the victims of a tsunami, earthquake, or fire, the continuing need of the victims feels less compelling and fewer and fewer dollars flow in.

Regardless how you feel about this, the truth of it is evident.

Those who are compelled by disaster will only continue to support your organization when you show them a compelling plan to avoid disaster in the future. And this is where urgency can play an important role.

Asking for support to help you continue doing your good work is just not as compelling as the same ask but with a timeline can be. This is one reason challenge grants are so successful. It’s not just the fact that every dollar your donor gives is worth more—it is the fact that that this is a time-limited offer.

Campaigns—time-defined efforts to raise funds for a particular purpose –also use urgency as a tool.

This urgency needs to be on both ends. Yes, we must make our donors see the value of saying yes sooner. And yes, we must ask earlier rather than later.

Serious major gifts do often take years to cultivate. But—and this is important—in most cases, the donor is making other gifts in the interim.

The big project may take a long time to develop, but meanwhile there are these urgent needs that need to be addressed and your donor’s support can make all the difference.

Major donors do not come to us fully developed. Over time—the time to make that major gift—we have to show them that we are good stewards of their money, that we care about what they care about, that there gift of any size is important to us. More, their ongoing support will help keep us from crisis.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity. Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com or email her directly at janet@janetlevineconsulting.com