Why non-fundraisers always weaken fundraising

Here’s a world-class rant from one of the fundraisers you really should be listening to, Tom Ahern: Playing to lose.

It’s about that moment, dreaded by all consultants, when your client says of your work, “The internal team has some concerns about the direct mail you wrote.”

Because you know at that point that fundraising effectiveness is about to go into a nosedive. And it shouldn’t be that way:

Untrained staff and board cannot accurately judge professionally- crafted direct mail. It’s impossible. Mailed appeals are a counter-intuitive enterprise, based on neuroscience, decades of testing, empiricism, and acquired skill sets of surprising depth and complexity.

I think all fundraisers, consultants and in-house, have experienced the unwanted help of non-professionals. That’s because the ignorant are so ignorant they don’t know they’re ignorant. They honestly believe they’re suggesting improvements — when in fact, there’s virtually no way they possibly could be doing so. What works in fundraising is very specific, often counterintuitive, and seldom to the liking of people under age 65.

I don’t know if rants from people like me or Tom Ahern are of any help — after all, the non-professionals aren’t paying attention to us in the first place.

If it would help, print out Tom’s post and leave it anonymously in one of the non-professionals’ mailboxes. Maybe they’ll read it. Maybe they’ll catch a glimmer of knowledge.


Comments

4 responses to “Why non-fundraisers always weaken fundraising”

  1. Amen to that!

  2. Amen to that!

  3. So true, Jeff. When it comes to HR, finance, or other operational areas, senior teams often yield to their internal specialists. But, for marketing, look out! Everyone’s an expert! 🙂

  4. So true, Jeff. When it comes to HR, finance, or other operational areas, senior teams often yield to their internal specialists. But, for marketing, look out! Everyone’s an expert! 🙂

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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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