Fake News versus Real News: A Nonprofit Perspective

It’s the most popular phrase on the planet right now. It has dedicated websites, numerous articles, a hashtag, and has been used regularly in daily White House briefings for the past several months since President Trump took office. Yes, I am talking about Fake News.

Social media, email, and newspapers are filled with stories that look real and seem legitimate, but later turn out to be either incorrect, contain bad information, are out of context, or are in some cases just a way to drive traffic to websites. Everyone seems to be accusing each other of Fake News, and late night television and comedians have had their plates full with what is and isn’t news.

It is easy to get caught up in the hype and frustration of current events, trending news, and political banter. For some, it seems the whole topic has turned into a sport. The New York Times wrote an article, As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth, and observed:

The larger problem, experts say, is less extreme but more insidious. Fake news and the proliferation of raw opinion that passes for news is creating confusion, punching holes in what is true, causing a kind of fun-house effect that leaves the reader doubting everything, including real news.

That has pushed up the political temperature and increased polarization. No longer burdened with wrestling with the possibility that they might be wrong, people on the right and the left have become more entrenched in their positions, experts say. In interviews, people said they felt more empowered, more attached to their own side and less inclined to listen to the other. Polarization is fun, like cheering a goal for the home team. – New York Times, December 6, 2106

So, for those of you who work in the nonprofit or faith-based sector and are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or even saddened by all the Fake News talk, I am going to share with you some REAL news that is 100% verified, fact-checked, confirmed and completely true. Are you ready?

Fundraising is not rocket science – it’s about people

If you can connect to people, you can be a great fundraiser (we have a whole new system launching Sunday specifically for managing donations). Great fundraising isn’t focused on ‘generating income’; great fundraising connects people who want to give to a cause they feel strongly about. Our job as fundraisers is to be that link between people and the cause (your mission) and to do it in a way that makes donors feel valued and connected and enables you to meet the goals set by your board, trustees of directors.

Here are a few additional pieces of “not fake news” I think you count on for success and peace of mind as you work tirelessly and passionately on behalf of your organization, nonprofit or church.

Thank your donors

After a busy giving season at the end of the past year, many nonprofits did not spend the same amount of time and energy thanking their donors and supporters. Remember to give thanks for donations early and often. Showing constant, authentic appreciation for your donors (new and old) is crucial for retaining supporters and building quality relationships with your support base. Always send a thank-you (and their tax-deductible information). Online giving tools like Aplos generate donor receipts automatically, but make sure to tailor or add a thank you message to the letter/receipt. Then, follow up with something more personalized like a handwritten card or note from a board member or Executive Director.

Communicate with your donors

You have to communicate with your donors in a way that isn’t always asking them for money.  Using newsletters, e-mails, Facebook, videos, podcasts, websites, and non-ask appreciation events are great ways to communicate with and steward your donors.

Get people involved

Donors tend to stay connected with organizations that engage and involve them beyond their wallets. Time and talent from your donors and support base is as important and valuable as treasure. Ask your donors to volunteer, serve on committees, or join your board.  Get them active on behalf of your organization with participatory fundraising.  Get them involved.

Focus on your donor’s needs, not yours

Despite the worthiness of your cause, or the multitude of people you help, there’s no good reason why prospects/donors should give you money just because you ask. More likely they’ll give when they find a connection not just with the organization but with the things and people that match their passions and interests. Imagine your donors as customers. You’ll move away from your need to theirs, which will go a long way toward making your fundraising approach compelling.

Stay focused on what matters (not fake news) and your mission. Try to remember the incredible staff, volunteers, and donors who are a part of the work you do every day, as well as the communities and regions that you serve and the lives that are impacted by your organization.

Happy fundraising.

Dan Kimball is a seasoned fundraiser with twenty years of experience in strategic fund development and nonprofit management. He’s currently developing Aplos’ Donor Management Platform to help nonprofits connect with (and cultivate!) their donor base.

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