Buyer’s Remorse and Fundraising

Buyer’s Remorse and Fundraising


10 November 2020


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


OK – Election is over – time to return our attention to fundraising.


Think back to the last time you spent (or at least committed) a great deal of money on something you really wanted. A car for example.

And think about how that decision got made. You probably listened to friends (Buy a Honda. You’ll never go wrong buying a Honda.) You considered new versus used. You read Consumer Reports and Kelley Bluebook information.

But, if we’re honest, the decision to buy THAT car really came down more to the test drive than to anything else. Were we testing horsepower? AWD? Torque? Anti-lock braking systems?

No. Or at least No for most people. We were testing out how we felt in the car. We were imagining the car being our car.

The larger the expenditure, the more the decision is based on emotion over intellect. We tend to use information to justify what we wanted to do anyway. (That’s why the car dealer is in our ear saying “How does that feel? instead of “What do you think?”)

That’s not to say information won’t save us from making bad decisions. Indeed, it certainly can. But faced with an abundance of OK-to-good decisions, information helps justify what we wanted to do anyway.

And several days later, the second-guessing starts.


The same dynamics are true in fundraising.

  • The larger the decision, the more emotional it is.
  • Donors listen to friends and people they respect.
  • They research the options.
  • They make gut decisions, based on emotion more so than intellect.
  • And they second guess those decisions.


That’s why we focus on story-telling in fundraising rather than science and numbers. And why our test drives are done from a canoe or on the trail.


But let’s go back to the second-guessing part. Because the decision to buy THAT car is more based on emotion than information – heart versus head – the head starts to question whether it was the “right” decision or not. And we start looking around for validation.

Did we make a good decision?

And what we notice is how many other people ended up making the same decision. How many other Honda Accords are out there on the road, or even in my neighborhood?


Good fundraising – donor-centered fundraising – understands this tendency toward “buyer’s remorse,” especially as the dollar amount of the gift goes up. We reinforce in our acknowledgement communications that they made a good decision – that their gift was immediately put to work doing good in the world. We let them know about the difference their gift made – through project updates and little anecdotes. We take them to the project sites to show them what they helped accomplish.

And we share with them the names of people who made the same decision.

The list of donors in the Annual Report, or recognized at the campaign event, or etched into the donor wall is certainly about stroking egos. But it’s also about helping other people get over their buyer’s remorse – helping them see that the decision they made to give money was a good decision. See? – there’s a lot of other people who made the same decision!

Note that buyer’s remorse does not have a dollar threshold. For one person, $1,000 is a huge gift. For someone else, it might be pocket change.

Good fundraisers understand the level of the decision donors are making (for  them!) and understand the rising emotional need to have that decision re-enforced.


Who will you be working with this Fall? And how can you help them feel good about their decision to give?


Stay safe and stay well,




Photo by 272447 courtesy Pixabay


PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.



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1 Comment
  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 10:54h, 10 November

    We all want to be on the winning team!