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Mosh Pit of Worthy Causes

I chuckle when I hear private sector businesses complain about their competition. They have it easy compared to being in the Third Sector nonprofit world.

Private sector businesses typically compete with companies providing the same product or service that the customer needs in order for them to do business. Competitors seek budgeted – must spend funds. If you are restaurant, you must have napkins, ovens, coolers and the like. If you are a trucking company, you must have tires, insurance, maintenance services etc.

Fierce Competition

Third sector nonprofits, on the other hand, are not trying to secure budgeted funds for must-have goods and services from individuals and businesses. Nonprofits are competing for discretionary funds, that by definition, can be spent on anything – from mission-driven good works to new chairs for the dining room to retirement savings.

Add to this, there are nearly two-million worthy missions competing for discretionary dollars. Once local fundraising efforts now have affordable broad reach thanks to Facebook, Amazon Smile, Twitter, Instagram, email campaigns and more. These tools make competition for discretionary funds even more fierce.

Mosh Pit

We are experiencing a “mosh pit” of nonprofits trying to get our attention, to stand out from the pit in the hope to attract more contributions. When I am bombarded with advertising, cause promotions, direct mail appeals, email appeals and other creative efforts by a vast array of causes, I conjure an image of thousands of people in a crowd carrying the celebrity of the moment over their heads until they disappear back into the crowd – to be followed by another. The moment is fleeting.

As a fundraising consultant, and like you, I am a sophisticated observer and consumer of these efforts, and often feel overwhelmed. From the perspective of a regular citizen, these efforts must wash over them as fundraising “noise” with the occasional breakthrough cause-celeb. It takes advertisements of animal cruelty or close-ups of children with disfigurements or people orbiting Earth to breakthrough. It is no wonder donor stickiness is declining.


This is why it is so important to invest time and money in stewardship of the donors you already have been able to engage. It is so hard and costly to secure new donors – to pluck them from the pit – and much less expensive and more fun and gratifying to build relationships with current donors.

I recently made a four-figure tribute gift to an organization with which I had a close relationship and which has a sophisticated advancement office. I made the gift online and received an automated acknowledgement letter with the expectation that I would receive a more personal follow-up to my gift… crickets.

That was my last gift to them.


Related GivingTake posts

A New Paradigm is Upon Us – The Donor Pyramid is Narrowing – Happy New Year!

Getting Aligned with the Missionary Position

The Power of Google Alerts


Copley Raff’s mission: Every interaction is to help nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions by meeting ambitious goals, aligning their leadership, elevating fundraising, and activating the brilliance of their teams. It’s a bold promise but one that we know will serve you and your organization’s mission in a way that will deliver tangible and meaningful results – the kind of results that make a real difference!

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