Fundraising Hell, Level 1: Virtuous Unbelievers

Inferno

Dante’s Inferno is a masterpiece of medieval religious thought, an unflinching look at the nature of evil and what it does to the human spirit. I urge you to read it (and also the other two parts of his Divine Comedy, Purgatorio and Paradiso).

If Dante had been a fundraiser, his Inferno might have been slightly different, featuring the evils specific to fundraisers. Alas, he wasn’t. We’ve been waiting nearly 700 years to find out what’s waiting in the afterlife for fundraisers.

I have corrected Dante’s oversight.

For the next nine Mondays, we’ll explore each of the levels of Fundraising Hell — who’s in them, why, and what they suffer for their sins. Dante’s Hell consists of nine levels, each one lower and more terrible than the previous. Fundraising Hell is similar.

Level 1: Virtuous Unbelievers

This level is a peaceful, pleasant, but somewhat sad place, where you see fundraisers wandering aimlessly.

These are fundraisers who never quite learned how to do their work right, who never heard the good news about effective fundraising. They never learned what works. Never attended a conference. Read a book. Or a blog. They just did the best they could in their ignorance.

Sometimes they got it right, more often they didn’t. But they didn’t really know the difference.

Many worked at very small organizations that couldn’t afford to send them to conferences, didn’t have books, and lacked connection to the larger fundraising community.

This is not a terrible circle. Technically, it’s part of Hell, but it’s not hellish. These deceased fundraisers continue their wandering and their relatively blissful ignorance. Their tragedy is one of wasted potential: They did their best, but their best wasn’t very good, because it lacked direction.

How can you avoid this level of Hell? Well, since you’re reading this, I can almost guarantee you aren’t headed there. You could be going someplace far worse, but we’ll get to that in the coming weeks.

Next week: Level 2 — The Lustful


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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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