Should You Promote Your Cause or Your Organization?

Capturing a donor imageThis morning, I read a headline in the Association of Fundraising Professionals bulletin that read, “Fundraisers More Committed to Causes than Organizations?”  The question mark was what caught my eye. This does not seem surprising to me.

In fact, I would take this one step further and guess that the majority of donors to an organization feel the same way.

Looking at my history as a donor would tell you that the majority of time, it is true for me.  One or two organizations stay the same no matter where I live -The Brattle Film Foundation falls into that category.  But many of my selected charities would change as I move from one community to another – including my synagogue, museums, public radio and TV station as well as a local children’s services organization based on my family’s connection.

Following this train of thought, do you talk to donors about your cause or your organization?


Look at my examples again.  Boston has two national public radio outlets, and countless college radio stations that are, at least partially, listener supported.    I only give to one.  I chose it for content and I chose to give to this type of charity because I appreciate the cause.  But if one of the other stations were to call me to try to get me to donate to them because they are public and need external support – I would probably turn them down.

Now it’s your turn.  Take a look at your donor strategy.  What does it say about the cause and what does it say about the organization.  Does it promote the efficacy of homeless shelters, in general, and then focus on why and how your shelter affects the prospective donor’s community?  As another example, does your congregation talk to the benefits of religious institutions in general or only the specifics of your community?  It might be worth a check to ensure you cover all the essential points of both the cause, in general, as well as the organization, especially if you are talking to someone in development.