The belief that throttles too many fundraisers

Want to know how to really screw up your career as a fundraising writer?

Think of yourself as an artist.

That’s the useful and liberating point of this post at the Daily Egg: The Biggest Lie in Copywriting. (The lie is “I am an artist.”)

A writer who’s an artist is someone with a vision that originates within. The most important rule the artist follows is bring that vision out. It might be obscure; that’s okay. It might be difficult; that’s okay. It might make readers feel like crap; that’s okay too. It’s all okay because it’s art. It might be bad art, but it’s still art.

When you’re writing fundraising, bringing your vision out isn’t a rule. In fact, it’s almost surely something you shouldn’t do.

In that case, you are not an artist. You’re more like a craftsperson. Or a scientist.

As the Daily Egg notes, you only need to know these three things:

  • It’s all about the research.
  • No one cares what you think.
  • The only thing that matters is the opinion of your audience.

What you do when you’re writing fundraising looks exactly like what poet expressing the eccentric longings of his innermost soul. But it’s a fundamentally different activity.

Coverstanding180

One great way to succeed in fundraising by basing your fundraising on knowledge is to read this book: How to Turn Your Words into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing.

It’s a sort of writer’s handbook for fundraisers. You’ll learn the counterintuitive truths about fundraising that the insiders use to raise the big bucks. You’ll eliminate the guesswork and replace it knowledge.

It’s available at:


Comments

4 responses to “The belief that throttles too many fundraisers”

  1. Valerie T. Avatar
    Valerie T.

    Hi Jeff,
    I’ve bought your books and believe what you say. The problem is, my CEO doesn’t, and neither does the long-time Development Associate at my new gig. They’ve been fundraising for the past 10 years as if it’s a matter of opinion and personal taste. If I said “No one cares what you think,” it would not be received well.
    How do you gently help people see that development is an actual profession, and there is research and best practices and trained professionals (such as myself) who should be calling the shots? A non-CPA wouldn’t tell the accountant how to balance the books, and a non-MSW wouldn’t tell the therapist how to counsel a troubled teen, so someone untrained shouldn’t be telling me how to write an appeal letter (when I’ve read probably literally thousands of pages on appeal letters and donor communications).
    I don’t know how to “defend my turf” or my right to make decisions as the Development Director, without making my boss and my direct report feel offended and criticized. You mention how important this is in your books (and say that often the staff in your org will think your donor communications are simplistic, tacky, or overly-emotional – which is exactly what I’ve been being told) – but, when that happens, what should a development professional do? How do I do my job well and not alienate my colleagues by resisting and dismissing their opinions?
    With many thanks,
    Valerie

  2. Valerie T. Avatar
    Valerie T.

    Hi Jeff,
    I’ve bought your books and believe what you say. The problem is, my CEO doesn’t, and neither does the long-time Development Associate at my new gig. They’ve been fundraising for the past 10 years as if it’s a matter of opinion and personal taste. If I said “No one cares what you think,” it would not be received well.
    How do you gently help people see that development is an actual profession, and there is research and best practices and trained professionals (such as myself) who should be calling the shots? A non-CPA wouldn’t tell the accountant how to balance the books, and a non-MSW wouldn’t tell the therapist how to counsel a troubled teen, so someone untrained shouldn’t be telling me how to write an appeal letter (when I’ve read probably literally thousands of pages on appeal letters and donor communications).
    I don’t know how to “defend my turf” or my right to make decisions as the Development Director, without making my boss and my direct report feel offended and criticized. You mention how important this is in your books (and say that often the staff in your org will think your donor communications are simplistic, tacky, or overly-emotional – which is exactly what I’ve been being told) – but, when that happens, what should a development professional do? How do I do my job well and not alienate my colleagues by resisting and dismissing their opinions?
    With many thanks,
    Valerie

  3. I echo Valerie’s question(s). 100%. It’s not enough for us to know what the right thing to do is. Being educated, knowledgeable, and talented doesn’t matter if the gatekeepers (CEO’s, etc) are too busy believing their own individual opinions are everyone’s.
    What are some concrete steps to convert the refuse-to-believers?

  4. I echo Valerie’s question(s). 100%. It’s not enough for us to know what the right thing to do is. Being educated, knowledgeable, and talented doesn’t matter if the gatekeepers (CEO’s, etc) are too busy believing their own individual opinions are everyone’s.
    What are some concrete steps to convert the refuse-to-believers?

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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.