Why now?

That’s a question every fundraiser has to answer.

What’s going on this instant that should make a donor take our her wallet, enter in her credit card information and make a donation to your organization?

We manufacture “why now” deadlines all of the time — match campaign deadlines, fulfillment deadlines for Mother’s Day gifts that matter, deadlines to qualify for a premium…

I’ve experienced first hand, however, that in online fundraising the most important case for “why now” is when an issue is breaking in the news cycle. I often tell clients, “if you try to raise money online on an issue outside of the news cycle, then you probably aren’t raising much money.”

The reason? Third party validation makes your issue more relevant and top of mind for donors.

This is easier for some organizations than others. Human rights, gun violence, disasters.. Those issues lend themselves to large-scale media moments. But it’s not impossible for other groups to crack this model.

Think creatively about how your organization can relate to themes surfacing in the media. Can you find topical hooks that “pass the laugh test?” (e.g. Don’t look like pure ambulance chasing).  Think reactions to high-profile op-eds placed by thought leaders like Nicholas Kristof or Sheryl Sandberg. Think Supreme Court case decisions that could have ripple effects on your issue. Think media-covered presidential trips to countries/regions where you work. Think major world events like the Olympics or World Cup.

Of course, you need to stay true to who you are and what you do. But there’s a lot of topical wiggle room in between if you look hard enough.