How to stop the an out-of-control fundraising approval process

Here’s a tale of horror from the BlueFrog Creative blog: Is your approvals process killing your appeals?

Seems they have a client that gets the opinions of 35 reviewers on copy for fundraising messages. Yes, 35!

That’s guaranteed mediocrity for the organization. (Actually, it’s more like guaranteed insanity.) As BlueFrog noted:

The fundraising department’s prime function was no longer to produce appeals that would engage and inspire supporters — the sum total of their ambition had been reduced to producing appeals that would get signed off.

After three or so, each additional reviewer can only make your work worse. The ignorance, stupidity, and personal need for significance compounds with each reviewer. By the time you’re at 10 reviewers, all the life is gone from your message. At 20, coherence has been removed. By the time 30 reviewers have weighed in, you’d have been better off sending a page of solid black ink. I don’t know from experience, but I have a feeling that reviewer #35’s comments turn the fundraising message into a soul-eating neuro-virus that automatically consigns anyone who accidentally tries to read it to the Fires of Hell. (Fortunately, hardly anyone will try to read it.)

If you actually want your fundraising to do well, each of the three, possibly four, people with reviewing responsibility should work with these qualifications:


  1. Specific and identified expertise, and they should limit their comments to that area. So if the guy who knows everything about the micro-enterprise program in Sumatra the message is about wants to “improve” the sentence structure, don’t listen to him! He’s wrong, and will make it worse.
  2. Accountable for results. If you make a change that makes the message raise less money, you should feel that pain of the damage you’ve inflicted. That’ll get people thinking responsibly about their comments in a hurry.
  3. A general attitude that they never request a change unless they absolutely must. Their own preference isn’t a good enough reason to change anything.

This would go a long to toward stopping the insanity and improving the financial health of nonprofits.


Comments

2 responses to “How to stop the an out-of-control fundraising approval process”

  1. Steve Lynch Avatar
    Steve Lynch

    Hello Jeff,
    Thanks for the plug. I’m glad my blog got your juices flowing, and also a little envious that you railed against the idiocy so much more eloquently than I could.
    I wanted to point out to your readers, however, that the client I was referring doesn’t work with Bluefrog. Thankfully, it was an organisation I worked with in a previous life. I’d hate any of the great people we work with now to think I was talking about them.

  2. Steve Lynch Avatar
    Steve Lynch

    Hello Jeff,
    Thanks for the plug. I’m glad my blog got your juices flowing, and also a little envious that you railed against the idiocy so much more eloquently than I could.
    I wanted to point out to your readers, however, that the client I was referring doesn’t work with Bluefrog. Thankfully, it was an organisation I worked with in a previous life. I’d hate any of the great people we work with now to think I was talking about them.

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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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