Fundraising Myth Busters: Hope gets better results than need

Welcome to the seventh and final installment of my Fundraising Myth Busters series. I hope you’ve gleaned some valuable information that you can put to work to raise your organization more money. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the first six myths, you can do that here: Donor acquisition; Brand advertising & direct response fundraising; Solicitation frequency; Online-acquired donors; Cut acquisition to improve revenue; Major donors shouldn’t get your direct mail.

In this final installment, we’ll tackle what I think might be the most divisive myth in our sector. It’s the belief that images and stories of hope are more appropriate and will deliver better results than images and stories of need.

Here we go…

Myth #7

Hope gets better results than need

What we know

  • Donors give to meet specific needs
  • Happy photos and stories communicate that the problem is already solved (and if the problem is solved, you don’t need your donors).

How did we test this

  • Although every nonprofit in the world challenges the need to display need – one of our largest international relief and development partners created a notable test of this theory.
  • In an hour long direct response television program, they changed 22 seconds of copy and images to reflect more of the successful / hopeful, joyous angle of their work.

What we learned

  • In this head-to-head test, those 22 seconds of joy and success reduced their response rate by 30%!

Showing need is a critical element to your direct response fundraising success. Click To Tweet Focusing only on success doesn’t inspire donors to give. Myth Busted

BUT…another client tested a direct mail package that relied on a before (need) and after (accomplishment/hope) approach against a pure need-focused package. This combined execution delivered a 10% higher response rate, but an 8.5% lower average gift. ROI was comparable across the two packages.

This tells me that there’s room for testing and creativity in this area.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Fundraising Myth Busters: Hope gets better results than need

  1. While I appreciate these myth-busters, I’d be curious as to the results of a little further research. I agree with most of your conclusions on all of these, but just measuring one or two organizations makes me hesitate to say that the myth is busted completely.

    • Hi Larissa,

      You make a good point. As I am able to discover more examples, I’ll certainly share them.

      I would argue the same for the myth itself. Just because one donor complains about mail frequency, one major donor complained about getting direct mail, etc., doesn’t make those accurate trends either. I think the most important takeaway from your comment is that we need to remember to test constantly rather than relying on intuition and assumptions.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. While ours is just one small sample – the program at our 20th Annual Breakfast of Hope was one of Hope instead of need. And this was the a record breaking year in terms of donations given on the day of.

    • Shelly, this makes total sense to me. In a face-to-face environment, or an event like this, it’s much easier to gain success from a positive message. The dynamic is very different in a direct response environment.