Fundraising is both an Art AND a Science

March 16, 2018

This is a profession that requires both hemispheres of the brain — the creative, along with the analytical. You can have all of the passion in the world, but the need for a scientifically-proven methodology of asking for money is what will propel you to success. I have seen some organizations succeed without the Art (they are essentially asking-machines) but I have never seen an organization succeed without the Science.

So how does one go about making it a Scientific endeavor? The first objective would be to come up with agreed-upon metrics — that is very scientific. Average gifts, number of donors, ask amounts, retention rates, etc. These are all numbers that can be validated (or invalidated) with a little bit of digging from within your database.

The Art

But what about the Art-side of the equation? Have you triggered emotions in your audience, like a Van Gogh piece of Art does? Have you been creative in your processes, asks, marketing, etc? After a while without creativity, your product will blend in like the furniture — it may not withstand the test of time. We are moving towards a storytelling model — people want to be inspired by someone’s story of overcoming adversity.

The Science

The Scientific-side talks about evidence-based fundraising. I, personally, live in evidence-based fundraising. (Along with the #1 evidence-based rule that the reason people donate is because they are asked!) It is a science to make sure that you have all of the apparatus (tools) at your disposal to ensure the project turns out well. That being said, if you spend to much time analyzing and not enough time chatting with prospects, you may, over time, be analyzing a very small shrinking group.

There is, however, the flip-side of the coin:

Support of non-profits by donors is a (mostly) emotional endeavor. It is guided by the same endorphins in the brain that produce joy. Sometimes it is impossible to correlate the logical side of donating to charity with the emotional side.

The Art and Science

In conclusion, I believe that you need to have a balanced approach — there is a time and place for each of the Art and Science to shine.