You can either deliver the messages that will raise the most money, or you can raise less money but deliver messages that are more consonant with your organization’s ‘brand personality.’

But make no mistake, it is almost always a trade-off.

Organizations, and by this I mean EDs, Boards and communications directors, generally want to project an image that is positive and inspirational. So did I when I was a comms director. It’s completely understandable.

But upbeat and inspirational copy almost never raises more money. This has been tested more times than Donald Trump has tweeted during his presidency. It’s a point of frustration for brand keepers and often a point of acrimony between fundraisers and everyone else.

But look at it from the donor’s perspective. They want to feel as though their donation is helping to solve a problem. If you don’t give them a problem to solve, they are much less likely to give. Again, this has been tested to death.

That means the copy that raises the most money is often pilloried as negative, exploitive, misleading, incomplete and worst of all, off-brand. Fundraisers don’t like downbeat copy. They use it because it works. They use it because some genius above them gave them a ‘stretch goal’ to meet and the only way they can make their numbers is to use whatever raises the most money.

[And yes, arguers, successful downbeat copy has to have hope too. It needs to be a problem they believe they can solve.]

I think it’s a fair and legitimate decision by an organization to choose to raise a little less and convey the image and tone the higher ups want. But make no mistake – it will raise less money.

The problem comes with pretending you can have both.