Do you have the most depressing job in the world?

The people in our industry I feel the most sorry for are the fundraisers who think donors hate fundraising.

They have a working assumption that fundraising is annoying, and that giving is painful. Fundraisers who make that assumption make a lot of errors:

  • They fail to ask clearly. Because they think they’re bugging people, their asks are vague. Needless to say, unclear asking nets fewer responses than clear and straightforward asking. And really, wouldn’t you think it’s even more annoying to have to decode unclear communications?
  • They don’t ask often enough. Ask too often, and donors will turn on you, they think. As if donors are some kind of semi-wild dogs who can only tolerate so much contact before they revert to the dangerous creatures that lurk below the surface. When you ask seldom, you not only make a lot less revenue, but you end up with less-engaged donors and much worse retention.
  • They give donors a “rest” after they give. Giving was so painful and awful, the donors need time to recuperate. In doing so, you miss the time when donors are most likely to give: soon after they’ve given!

All this means less revenue. And less connection with donors, who want to give, who want to be involved and change the world!

Worse yet, it’s a self-fulfilling prediction. If you think fundraising is annoying, you will create annoying fundraising!

But the real reason I feel sorry for these people is they’re voluntarily forgoing joy! If they realized what a blessing their fundraising brought into their donors’ lives, they’d be thrilled to come to work every day. As it is, they feel pretty crappy about what they do most of the time.

Who tolerates living like that? I’d change careers. They should too.


Comments

4 responses to “Do you have the most depressing job in the world?”

  1. “Who tolerates living like that? I’d change careers. They should too.”
    This is some defeatist advice to a group of people who are already suffering from self-esteem issues and a misguided perspective on what philanthropy really is. Instead of telling them “get out” please let’s tell them what rich and rewarding work they can do.
    First — Telling a person how excited you are about making real change in the world (with examples) and inviting them to be a part of amplifying that joy with a specific gift (amount and timing) to meet a set of specific outcomes that is next on the horizon is welcome news and exciting conversation. Get your head out of the spreadsheets and gift tables, and go walk around with your eyes cast squarely on the mission (be engaged with the difference your org makes) before you call a donor. Share what you feel about the actual good your org does with all the pride, sadness, humour, indignation and all the things that made the org start in the first place — and be sure to get your donor’s feelings on the subject, and listen deeply, like its the first time you ever heard anyone say so. Not everyone donates for the same reason — find that reason with that one donor, and honor it well.
    Second — Every victory and every setback your org has could be worthy of a share with a donor. Now that you know their reason for giving, you have a map to the victories and setbacks of your org that will be meaningful to them, and you want to be first to give them the news. If the youth rec center where they donated a tennis table last spring was vandalized this past weekend, you let them know on before they can read about it in the news or hear about it through other channels. Give them the chance to feel that sense of loss with you, and to feel the desire to help set things right again. Too often, we can fall into the trap of thinking setbacks mean we were poor stewards of the gift, and victories mean the need is fulfilled and the donor’s purpose is met. Neither is the case, and we must give the donor the chance to share an opinion on what the org is doing and what they want to do about it.
    Third — Letting a donor “rest” and going silent or invisible on the donor is not a favor, it’s an insult. If you asked a friend to drive you to the airport for your vacation flight, don’t you think they’d be a little curious about your trip? It would be rude not to tell them, and you definitely wouldn’t cut off communications with your friend until vacation time next year, when you need another ride to the airport. Same with donors. They’re people who are doing something nice and want to see people being happy because of it — and if they felt good from doing something nice, they’ll want to do it again, and the sooner the better.
    You do not have to have a “fun” cause or a “compelling” cause. A group of people saw the purpose when they created your org initially, and many people still do. There’s a lot of love out there — welcome it and celebrate it. It’ll make you feel good, and you will bring that forward in all the partnerships you make with your donors.

  2. “Who tolerates living like that? I’d change careers. They should too.”
    This is some defeatist advice to a group of people who are already suffering from self-esteem issues and a misguided perspective on what philanthropy really is. Instead of telling them “get out” please let’s tell them what rich and rewarding work they can do.
    First — Telling a person how excited you are about making real change in the world (with examples) and inviting them to be a part of amplifying that joy with a specific gift (amount and timing) to meet a set of specific outcomes that is next on the horizon is welcome news and exciting conversation. Get your head out of the spreadsheets and gift tables, and go walk around with your eyes cast squarely on the mission (be engaged with the difference your org makes) before you call a donor. Share what you feel about the actual good your org does with all the pride, sadness, humour, indignation and all the things that made the org start in the first place — and be sure to get your donor’s feelings on the subject, and listen deeply, like its the first time you ever heard anyone say so. Not everyone donates for the same reason — find that reason with that one donor, and honor it well.
    Second — Every victory and every setback your org has could be worthy of a share with a donor. Now that you know their reason for giving, you have a map to the victories and setbacks of your org that will be meaningful to them, and you want to be first to give them the news. If the youth rec center where they donated a tennis table last spring was vandalized this past weekend, you let them know on before they can read about it in the news or hear about it through other channels. Give them the chance to feel that sense of loss with you, and to feel the desire to help set things right again. Too often, we can fall into the trap of thinking setbacks mean we were poor stewards of the gift, and victories mean the need is fulfilled and the donor’s purpose is met. Neither is the case, and we must give the donor the chance to share an opinion on what the org is doing and what they want to do about it.
    Third — Letting a donor “rest” and going silent or invisible on the donor is not a favor, it’s an insult. If you asked a friend to drive you to the airport for your vacation flight, don’t you think they’d be a little curious about your trip? It would be rude not to tell them, and you definitely wouldn’t cut off communications with your friend until vacation time next year, when you need another ride to the airport. Same with donors. They’re people who are doing something nice and want to see people being happy because of it — and if they felt good from doing something nice, they’ll want to do it again, and the sooner the better.
    You do not have to have a “fun” cause or a “compelling” cause. A group of people saw the purpose when they created your org initially, and many people still do. There’s a lot of love out there — welcome it and celebrate it. It’ll make you feel good, and you will bring that forward in all the partnerships you make with your donors.

  3. In principle, I agree that if you don’t ask, you will not receive. But time and time again I’ve watched our sector ask donors over and over again for funding, without providing a compelling reason to give again. Nor do we as a sector give enough thought or invest enough in reporting back on the impact their contributions have made. If our mindset as fundraisers is focused solely on raising funds today – without looking to a future of building relationships with our supporters – we’re taking a very short-term view.
    I posted a blog a few days ago on the same topic, but with a slightly different angle. Take a read – I’d love to know your thoughts!
    http://blakelyjourney.wordpress.com/

  4. In principle, I agree that if you don’t ask, you will not receive. But time and time again I’ve watched our sector ask donors over and over again for funding, without providing a compelling reason to give again. Nor do we as a sector give enough thought or invest enough in reporting back on the impact their contributions have made. If our mindset as fundraisers is focused solely on raising funds today – without looking to a future of building relationships with our supporters – we’re taking a very short-term view.
    I posted a blog a few days ago on the same topic, but with a slightly different angle. Take a read – I’d love to know your thoughts!
    http://blakelyjourney.wordpress.com/

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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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