Does Humor Work in Fundraising?

September 12, 2008

Posted in Marketing.

In Being human is overrated (but not when you are writing), Matthew Stibbe has some great suggestions for improving your writing. In the middle of the list:

“Don’t be afraid of humour.”

Donor Power Blog disagreed. The point was made that humor requires that someone else gets the joke, and in fundraising your jokes often fall flat. I have less experience, but in the year or so that I’ve been working on fundraising projects I tend to agree. I suppose it depends on your donor (you have to adjust to the prospect). Don’t get me wrong – I love being funny. I am a wealth of jokes, weird voices, and long-winded stories about living in Japan. I’m even funnier after a couple of beers (I think). But does that work in fundraising?

Fundraising is an investment. It requires trust and understanding and empathy. For many (myself included), humor is a defense against fear, frustration, and all kinds of discomforting feelings. In fundraising, those feelings have to be embraced and addressed. That is why your non-profit exists. As a fundraiser, you have to provide hope and optimism that the donor’s investment will make a difference.

Any success stories on using humor in your non-profit marketing and fundraising efforts?

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