Dirty words you NEED in your fundraising vocabulary

the dirty words in fundraisingI thought “revenue” was a dirty word.

In fundraising, I mean.

We don’t say revenue. We say total dollars raised.

We’re not business people. We’re in the world of philanthropy. We don’t want to sound sales-y.

We also certainly do not say “net revenue”, because then we’d have to acknowledge that there are costs associated with fundraising.

But now I’m on the dark side – the agency-side – and we use words like “revenue” and “net ROI” all the time.

So do our clients.

Once I got over the horror of it, I realize how much better off we are to acknowledge these metrics for what they really are. And we’re better fundraisers because we measure ourselves against them.

What if I told you that you should really pull 10,000 people out of your next mailing? They’re not performing well enough and it doesn’t make sense to mail them.

You might say, “Sure!” And then after I adjust your campaign projections, all you see is that “total dollars raised” have gone down.

But look at the costs – they’ve gone down, too. And yes, net revenue has gone down, but not nearly as much as gross revenue has.

You’re now spending money on your best performers, and not wasting it on others, which is smarter in the short-term and – more importantly – the long run.

But you don’t have to stop there. Take the money you saved and invest it in a better package for those high-performers you’re mailing.

Yes – I said invest. Because you’re gonna get a return on this.

What does that mean? Let me translate for you: more total dollars raised.

Don’t be afraid of the “dirty” words. Use them, measure them, and you might find yourself better off than you were before.


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Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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1 thought on “Dirty words you NEED in your fundraising vocabulary

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