What did we learn in Fundraising Hell?

Inferno520

For the last nine Mondays, we’ve been starting the work-week by visiting various levels of Fundraising Hell, an imaginary place bearing striking resemblance to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno.

I’d be happy if this series has encouraged you do dive into the original Divine Comedy.

I’d be even more happy if it helps you avoid doing the things that landed our imagined fundraisers in their various pits of eternal torment.

Before we leave Fundraising Hell for good, I want to point out an old approach to Hell that’s often lost in modern times.

Modern people, if they think about hell at all, think it is basically a prison: A place where bad people go for punishment when they get caught.

That’s not how it was seen by most until recent centuries. The older concept of hell is that it’s built by the people who are in it. Not something imposed on them by “the authorities,” but something they create through the choices they make. Their sufferings are not clever punishments, but natural consequences of the way they lived.

That’s what Fundraising Hell is like: You build your own torment.

What about heaven?

In his work, Dante continues on to Purgatory and Paradise, where we meet many more people in various stages of development.

I’m not going to follow him. You’ll have to imagine Fundraising Purgatory and Fundraising Paradise on your own. The people occupying those places are just not as interesting as those in Fundraising Hell.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, Effective fundraisers are all alike; every bad fundraiser is bad in his own way. Good fundraisers are just not all that interesting. Except for all the good causes they make possible and all the donors they help empower and transform.

Did you enjoy Fundraising Hell? Here it is, all in one big, terrible place.


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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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