How to practice best practices the best way

Every once in a while, a fundraising blogger or columnist will go on a rant against best practices.

The gist: Best practices suck because they keep you from innovating.

I almost agree. But when best practices keep you from innovating, it’s probably because the things you’re calling “best practices” are actually comfortable practices or maybe easy practices. Or good for a vendor’s business practices.

Plenty of organizations have that exact problem: So-called “best practices” are keeping them from adjusting to new fundraising realities or even replacing old controls that have lost their power.

Those organizations are hurting. And they can’t figure out why. Most of them blame external factors. They excuse themselves from any blame, because change is too painful for them.

But there’s a “best-practices” problem that’s far more common and more damaging.

It’s the many organizations that are completely unconnected with best practices. They make up everything they do, preferring their intuition and gut-sense over experience with what works. And I can guarantee you, their “pulled-out-of-thin-air practices” are less effective than even the most outdated best practices.

Fundraising is full of counterintuitive practices that really do work. It’s doubtful you’d figure them out any quicker than the years it took the industry in general to get there.

There are two main kinds of best-practice ignoring fundraising:

  1. You think you know better than the best practices. Let me tell you a secret: The chance that your guesses are smarter than what experience knows are remote. What seems better to you is almost certainly not.
  2. Not knowing anything about best practices. There’s not much formal training for fundraising. In fact, many fundraisers are pulled into it against their will. So they start out with no real knowledge. That’s excusable. Staying in that state is not.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try new things, takes risks, go out on limbs. You need to do those things, or you’ll become irrelevant. Making innovation part of your approach is itself a best practice. The most successful innovators are those you know the best practices backward and forward — and depart from them in smart ways.


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog