Halloween special: Things that should scare fundraisers

In honor of Halloween, when we seek that thrill of tiny fingers on the back of the neck, here are some things that should scare the heck out of fundraisers:

Data problems. Bad data can kill your fundraising in the most gruesome and terrifying ways. You can end up talking to the wrong people, not talking to the right people, saying the wrong things to people — all kinds of nightmarish things. Make sure your files are clean, complete, and accurate — and that you’re pulling what you think you are every time.

Cuts to the acquisition budget. When times are hard, it’s hard to keep spending money on acquisition. It’s an area where most of us lose money even in good times. When response drops, good luck. Thing is, when you cut acquisition, you slash the future. You guarantee that the hard times will last. If you stop acquisition for long enough, you can send your organization into a death-spiral.

Branding experts. These guys are the marauding, brain-eating zombies of the fundraising world. If they show up at your door, slam it. If they get in, run away. They are going to devour your fundraising program with their grand abstractions and faddish design. After the branding experts have come and gone, many organizations are stuck with a drop of up to 50% in fundraising revenue.

The boss loves it. This is a subtle and well-disguised threat. Don’t we want the boss to love our work? When the boss thinks you’ve really captured what she wants to say, you have almost certainly mucked it up for your donors. It may not be a tenable move, but if the boss loves it, you should probably go back to the drawing board.


Comments

12 responses to “Halloween special: Things that should scare fundraisers”

  1. Jeff, I totally agree with your comments about branding. Branding helps large corporations, (like my former employer; Procter & Gamble) use their massive media budgets much more efficiently. But for smaller nonprofits and businesses, the cost of trying to create a memorable brand image typically excede the revenue gains by a wide margin.

  2. Jeff, I totally agree with your comments about branding. Branding helps large corporations, (like my former employer; Procter & Gamble) use their massive media budgets much more efficiently. But for smaller nonprofits and businesses, the cost of trying to create a memorable brand image typically excede the revenue gains by a wide margin.

  3. Ha ha, laughing out loud! Have first hand experience of almost all of these frights! Couldn’t agree more!

  4. Ha ha, laughing out loud! Have first hand experience of almost all of these frights! Couldn’t agree more!

  5. Cute concept for a blogpost, but do you have any evidence to backup your assertation about brand experts? What about the times when branding (and marketing and PR) SUPPORT fundraising efforts? How can you have a remarkable fundraising event, social media presence, or excellent website with donation info without these things?

  6. Cute concept for a blogpost, but do you have any evidence to backup your assertation about brand experts? What about the times when branding (and marketing and PR) SUPPORT fundraising efforts? How can you have a remarkable fundraising event, social media presence, or excellent website with donation info without these things?

  7. I have the same question as Ciara; what is your source for your claim that strong branding results in an up to 50% drop in contributed revenues?

  8. I have the same question as Ciara; what is your source for your claim that strong branding results in an up to 50% drop in contributed revenues?

  9. Agree with Ciara. And also agree with your point that it’s time to talk WITH donors, not at them – which is why your comments suggest a narrow understanding of branding and the power it can have on social change. Branding today isn’t about a slick logo and fancy video; it’s about what you stand for in the mind of your donors. It’s your message, image and most importantly, experience – how you engage your donors today to build relationships, win loyalty and inspire action.

  10. Agree with Ciara. And also agree with your point that it’s time to talk WITH donors, not at them – which is why your comments suggest a narrow understanding of branding and the power it can have on social change. Branding today isn’t about a slick logo and fancy video; it’s about what you stand for in the mind of your donors. It’s your message, image and most importantly, experience – how you engage your donors today to build relationships, win loyalty and inspire action.

  11. Source for claim that branding experts hurt fundraising results: first-hand personal experience. Many times. Every time these guys to their thing, revenue drops.
    Please note that I’m not talking about branding as the problem, but about the version of branding that the “experts” foist on us.

  12. Source for claim that branding experts hurt fundraising results: first-hand personal experience. Many times. Every time these guys to their thing, revenue drops.
    Please note that I’m not talking about branding as the problem, but about the version of branding that the “experts” foist on us.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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