Fundraising Secret #9: Don't innovate just to innovate

Liz Strauss has a great post on innovation at Brainless Business Bible: Customers want innovation.

She says a speaker at a conference emphatically said "Customers want innovation." He even had a powerpoint slide with that on it.

But, as she points out, customers are people. Does the statement People want innovation stand up to scrutiny?

She goes on to say:

Do we? I suppose some folks put down hard earned cash for “innovation.” Personally, I’m not fully sure what innovation is.

When I go looking for something, when I buy something on impulse, when I spend my money on what I need, want, or desire, innovation is not on my mind. Solving a real or perceived problem is.

Solutions make my life, easier, more fun, more elegant. Solutions make me feel better about myself.

Innovation isn’t about me. It’s about the person who thought it up.

Solving a real of perceived problem. Isn't that what motivates all of us?

So to with our donors. If we're solving a real or perceived problem, they'll more likely make a gift. The problem way be personal, like being seen as giving to the socially "cool" nonprofit. Or it may be more philanthropic, like increasing literacy in the community. In reality, it's probably a combination of many things.

So the next time you think you need to innovate by changing your branding, or redesigning your letterhead, or recrafting your website so you can raise more money...DON'T.

At least not without asking, "How will this solve a real or perceived problem for our donors and the people we serve?"

It may sound harsh but they probably care less what colors are on the letterhead or what teaser is on the outside envelope. If they do, you may not want them.

What you want to find is donors that are excited about funding your organization because of the problems it's solving. Those are the ones you should invest time in!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Thanks, Marc, I agree with what you said as well. 🙂

What would you add?