It was then I realized that my job as a fundraiser was to transport the donor right into the program action. I was supposed to use words, stories and pictures to create, as best as possible, a mental and emotional experience, so that the donor could, from afar, live the experience.
Now, there is quite a bit of controversy on this point in the fundraising world. Some say describing how things really are is manipulation. It is too emotional. So, fundraisers holding to this philosophy dress up need in pretty clothes in a nice, politically correct way, and then dispense it to their donors who, much to the fundraisers’ surprise, are usually not really interested in what they have to say.
And here’s the reason. Need is need. If you are a normal human being you will experience a great deal of emotion when you come face to face with a hurt and broken human being, an abused child, a sick animal or a forest that has been destroyed. It is just not pleasant to be around need. So when you take all the life and emotions out of the stories you tell—when you do that, the reader cannot fully experience the meaning you are wanting to convey.
So why do we try to turn need into something it isn’t? I think fundraisers who dress need up are afraid of their own emotions—they are afraid of the pain they experience when they encounter need. So they first dress it up and place it for themselves in a tidy little emotionless package, which avoids the pain and then they pass it on to their donors.
All of this dressing up and packaging to contain the need and pain is a useless activity. We should be doing the opposite. Rather than protecting our donors from all the reality of the need we should be using every media, picture, choice of words and stories to literally take the donor right into the action—right to the scene. This, in my opinion, is effective communication that has integrity.
Remember, the reason donors give you the money is so you can do what they want to do but can’t. So they give you the money to do it on their behalf. That is the essence of fundraising—that’s how it works. I think it’s your obligation to tell things like they are.