Are your program people helping your fundraising?

Program people, those who lead and execute the mission at your organization, can be hard on fundraising. Because their perspective of what your organization does is radically unlike your donors’. I’m talking modes of perception that can barely conceive of one another. If men are from Mars and women from Venus, then program people are from Alpha Centauri and donors are from the tip of a unicorn’s ear.

The elements that make fundraising work — especially emotion and simplicity — seem foolishly off-point to some program people. One program leader once told me, “If we ran the program the way you make it sound, we’d fly off the rails in three weeks!” Fair enough. But fundraising isn’t the handbook for program operations. It’s the connection point with donors who aren’t experts.

Program people may feel your simple messages fail to capture the fullness of their programs. They’re probably right; anyway, I hope they are, because the “fullness” is almost certainly bad for fundraising.

In some cases, your fundraising may even make program people feel bad, with its emphasis on what’s not been done in their work. How would you feel if someone was sending out letters about the funds you’ve failed to raise this year?

These are all issues of perspective. The most difficult, or the easiest, issues to solve.

Here’s what to do: Become their friends. I mean actual friends. At least friendly colleagues who don’t mind hanging out and talking about tough topics, like what works and doesn’t work in fundraising.

As a friend, you can earn the right to speak frankly with them about fundraising. About the deep difference between program personnel and your donors. About the gap between messages that move donors to action and those that just bore or confuse them.

Program people’s opinions may be useless to your fundraising, but their knowledge can fuel great fundraising. They know how things work, how much they cost, and what’s happening at a detailed level. Your best work will come from talking to them about their programs.

Your worst will come from following their fundraising advice.


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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.

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