Attack of the spokespersons and bad fundraising

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is at it again, serving up unsupportable conclusions from dubious research and appointing spokespersons for entire generations. This time at Wealthy Young Donors Push Charities to Show Results.

The story is about a recent survey of a small number of wealthy young people who run their own family foundations.

But it’s reported as if it’s the truth about the needs and preferences of young donors in general, with characterizations like “younger donors want” and “another characteristic of younger donors.” This is about like surveying Lamborghini owners about their experiences with their cars and reporting the results as if that’s how all car owners feel.

That’s a very quick route to delusional thinking.

I’ve seen and heard several citations of this study and article given as reasons why we need to totally change the way we do fundraising.

For example, this little bit of verbatim, said by a 29-year-old trustee of a foundation that was established by her great-grandfather: “Heartstrings don’t do much for us.”

That loud sucking sound you’ve been hearing? That’s dozens of young-donor-hungry nonprofits who took that spokesperson’s half-baked statement as a piece of foundational research and stopped raising funds because they think the donors they want won’t give for emotional reasons.

Truth is: “Heartstrings” are the main active ingredient in getting anyone, of any age, to make a charitable gift.

People who professionally run foundations no doubt put a lot of rational parameters around their professional giving decisions. That’s what makes them abnormal.

The Chronicle article repeatedly makes this two-headed error:


  1. Reporting survey findings as if they are fact. They aren’t. They tell us what people say, and that’s not related to what they do.
  2. Reporting a survey on a very specialized and unusual group as if it were the entire generation.

That’s bad reporting.

But nothing is forcing anyone to believe it or follow it.

If you want to succeed in fundraising, pay attention to what donors actually do, not what some drummed-up spokespersons say in The Chronicle.


Comments

4 responses to “Attack of the spokespersons and bad fundraising”

  1. Connie Boyd Avatar
    Connie Boyd

    YES! Thank you!
    The Chronicle also recently ran an article full of bad pointers on appealing to young donors based on a very small survey sample indeed–the author. A woman in her twenties decided that she is an authoritative spokesperson for her generation and presumed to give fundraising advice solely on that basis. I’ve had 27 years of experience consulting for more than 300 nonprofits, and I can state with absolute confidence that she was clueless.

  2. Connie Boyd Avatar
    Connie Boyd

    YES! Thank you!
    The Chronicle also recently ran an article full of bad pointers on appealing to young donors based on a very small survey sample indeed–the author. A woman in her twenties decided that she is an authoritative spokesperson for her generation and presumed to give fundraising advice solely on that basis. I’ve had 27 years of experience consulting for more than 300 nonprofits, and I can state with absolute confidence that she was clueless.

  3. Next time you see a result of a survey cited, walk through this flow chart. http://renebekkers.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/polls-about-elections-what-are-they-worth/
    Replace ‘elections’ by ‘donors’ (or anything else).

  4. Next time you see a result of a survey cited, walk through this flow chart. http://renebekkers.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/polls-about-elections-what-are-they-worth/
    Replace ‘elections’ by ‘donors’ (or anything else).

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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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About the blogger

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.