Oh no! The boss is a writer: There goes our fundraising

Here’s one of the worst pieces of news you can get if you’re a fundraiser: The new boss is a writer!

Really, I have nothing against writers. I like most of them. But when the executive director, CEO, or president of a nonprofit is a writer, your fundraising is in danger. You can expect trouble and failure.

Why is that?

It’s because being a writer confers no fundraising ability. Writing ability is a great skill to have, but it correlates with being a fundraiser no more than does being left-handed or a great handball player.

But being a writer can bring some serious problems:

As a writer, the boss probably understands the concept of “voice.” So he wants to make sure the fundraising captures his voice — something he has cultivated and developed to a fine point; something he’s proud of. But his voice is probably not appropriate for the simple, repetitive, quick-hit needs of fundraising.

Further, the boss-writer is most likely a writer of a different genre than fundraising. Something more lofty and intellectual — less commercial and popular. Fundraising that uses his genre’s conventions will fail miserably.

If your boss is a writer, you may be in a rough place. Your best route to persuading him not to destroy your fundraising: Your excellence is at odds with fundraising excellence.


Comments

6 responses to “Oh no! The boss is a writer: There goes our fundraising”

  1. Courtney Avatar
    Courtney

    This post made me giggle and cringe at the same time. I’ve been in the unhappy position as a development director of struggling against intellectual writers–or worse yet, “writers” who cite their one college-level business writing class as gospel. Ugh.
    My best ammunition is keeping examples of previous appeals and their results–both successful and unsuccessful. More often than not, successful appeals were written by those of us who understand fundraising communications…and who probably had more than one disagreement with their business writing instructor.

  2. Courtney Avatar
    Courtney

    This post made me giggle and cringe at the same time. I’ve been in the unhappy position as a development director of struggling against intellectual writers–or worse yet, “writers” who cite their one college-level business writing class as gospel. Ugh.
    My best ammunition is keeping examples of previous appeals and their results–both successful and unsuccessful. More often than not, successful appeals were written by those of us who understand fundraising communications…and who probably had more than one disagreement with their business writing instructor.

  3. No need to bemoan the situation, denigrate anyone, or make enemies. Once you can show the writer in your midst that short, declarative sentences are powerful and prompt people to act, you’ll have an ally who appreciates brevity. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a literary reference to Hemingway’s style.

  4. No need to bemoan the situation, denigrate anyone, or make enemies. Once you can show the writer in your midst that short, declarative sentences are powerful and prompt people to act, you’ll have an ally who appreciates brevity. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a literary reference to Hemingway’s style.

  5. David Zemel Avatar
    David Zemel

    A good writer knows his/her audience. I “write” for a number of clients (hopefully well) and newspaper features don’t look like proposals, case statements are their own genre and social media posts are different all together.

  6. David Zemel Avatar
    David Zemel

    A good writer knows his/her audience. I “write” for a number of clients (hopefully well) and newspaper features don’t look like proposals, case statements are their own genre and social media posts are different all together.

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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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