5 Lessons Don Draper Can Teach You About Fundraising


Don Draper, the central character of AMC’s Mad Men, is “that guy.”

The one who owns the room, who develops and delivers the perfect pitch to move product.

If you’ve ever watched the show (or heard of it), you know it’s focused around a 1960s-era advertising agency. As the audience, we observe the development of ad campaigns along with the personal dramas of the cast of characters. Though Don’s private struggles are captivating, arguably the most interesting aspect of this groundbreaking show is the real-life marketing lessons Don Draper unfailingly delivers.

1. Know Your Audience. Don’s genius lies in his ability to understand what motivates his customer. When fundraising, it’s a safe assumption that folks will respond to a worthy cause, but what can make them connect with yours specifically? Ask yourself, “If I were a stranger, why would I want to donate money to this cause?” Refining the answer will help you market your event more effectively.

2. Keep it Original. As far as Don is concerned, “Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.” Be original in your approach and give every element of your fundraiser a personal touch. Doing so works toward engaging your audience and building trust.

3. It’s About the Experience. Don knows that it’s not about what he’s selling, it’s about what the consumer is buying: “You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells.” Whether fundraising or marketing a charity event, this translates into creating an environment which inspires attendees to respond and react.

4. Make it Simple but Significant. Refrain from burying your message and it will have more impact.

5. Build a Great Team. Don might be a genius, but he’d wouldn’t be as effective without his team. From Peggy Olson (his lead copywriter) to Roger Sterling (his partner) to the account managers to the graphic designers, each member plays a pivotal role in his overall success. Work with vendors and people passionate about the cause and excellent at what they do to elevate your fundraising efforts and increase the chance of success.

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