Overthinking: it’s worse than underthinking

It’s good to think things through carefully. It can prevent errors.

It’s bad to think things through too much. That can make you heedlessly do unbelievably stupid things.

Here’s a recent example: the Canadian Revenue Agency ruled that Oxfam Canada cannot include “preventing poverty” as part of their mission.

Their reasoning, according to Oxfam’s executive director: “[Preventing poverty] may or may not involve poor people. A group of millionaires could get together to prevent their poverty, and that would not be deemed a charitable purpose.”

Okay. It’s classic overthinking: A logical conclusion that wouldn’t ever happen in the real world. (I suppose it’s possible for an anti-poverty organization to act in a corrupt manner to benefit millionaires. But a change to their mission statement isn’t going to stop them.)

I’ve seen over-thinking hurt nonprofits many times. I once had an executive director rule that we could not use perforations in any of their direct mail. Reason: “People might get paper cuts, and they could sue us.”

That’s possible. About as possible as one monkey with one typewriter churning out Hamlet.

When you’re thinking carefully about something, you need to have a common-sense gut-check. Your ruminations must have some connection to the real world. Because overthinking makes you do stupid things.

Two interesting takes on the Canadian Revenue-Oxfam story:


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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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