Fundraising in the Age of “Fake News”

Just for the record, there has never been much agreement about facts, whether in politics or anywhere else. There was no golden age when every media outlet and news report was neutral and consistent. The difference at the moment is not the dismissal of unflattering facts. Everyone does that. The difference is the dismissal of unflattering sources of facts, categorically writing off whole swathes of the popular media as “fake news.” And whether your organization is feeling the effects yet or not, the tactics for successful fundraising are changing as a result.

Fundraising is a very broad term that applies to everything from raising money to purchase T-ball uniforms to developing new strategies to fund the next election season. But on any scale, fundraising is about presenting a problem and a solution, and then asking for the means to implement that solution. Intrinsic to that process is a receptive donor base who can agree about the course of action and collectively fund its implementation. Building a narrative and presenting it in a way that results in that agreement is the heavy lifting of fundraisers.

The problem presented by “Fake News” labels is directly related to the ability to appeal to a broad donor base in a general sense. When popular news outlets on either side of the aisle are labeled as “Fake News,” it gets that much more difficult to build consensus about even basic assumptions. What sources can both parties agree are acceptable and true? Is it a political faux pas to even attempt to find common ground? And most important, is the American public drifting so far apart that there is no message or approach on which we agree?
It’s easy to get discouraged, but navigating a path to common ground is not impossible. If your audience can’t agree on facts, appeal to their emotions, their locality, their history. If that doesn’t work, divide your target audience and try crafting parallel messages. This approach might not play as well at your yearly conference, but it works just fine for social media. The point is, if your organization crosses political lines and needs to be built on common ground, this is a good time to experiment and see what works. Donors are always a moving target.