Fundraising Hell, Level 7: The Violent

Inferno

If Dante had been a fundraiser, his Inferno might have been slightly different, featuring the evils specific to fundraisers. I have corrected Dante’s oversight. This is part seven of a nine-part tour of the levels of Fundraising Hell.

After we visit the heretics in their flaming tombs, we visit even more terrible offenders against fundraising and donors: the Violent, or, as they were called in life, the Brand Cops.

They committed violence against their causes, their donors, and themselves. The violence came in the form of ill-conceived, corporate-style branding that confused donors, garbled their messages, and killed revenue.

These Brand Cops were the perpetrators and defenders of destructive branding practices. They enforced whatever the brand mandated, which usually consisted of:


  • Self-centered messaging that was about the awesomeness of the organization, not the opportunity of the donors.
  • Abstract, symbolic descriptions of what the organization did, not concrete and literal descriptions that would give donors an idea what their giving might accomplish.
  • Bad design that was hard to read.
  • Aimed at non-existent or non-responsive audiences.

Worst of all, they insisted on these things, against all evidence. Proof that it was hurting the cause and missing the donors did not persuade the Brand Cops to lighten their vigilance.

The Brand Cops suffer a variety of terrible punishments in Fundraising Hell: Some are submerged in pools of boiling blood. Others have been transformed into gnarled thorn-bushes that are continually gnawed on by harpies. Yet others lie in red hot sand while fire rains down on them.

It’s just not nice at all in the seventh level of Fundraising Hell.

You can avoid this by insisting that your communications be based on the knowledge of donors and their behavior, not the inventions of Brand Experts. That’s your responsibility as a fundraiser. Donors, not brand.

(There are a few brand-focused fundraisers who are blissing out in Fundraising Paradise. They’re the ones who used brand to enforce donor-based fundraising. It can happen!)

Next Monday — Level 8: The Fraudulent

Previous levels:


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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.