What you should know about soggy french dip and arrogant fundraising

Here’s part of the menu board on a food truck near my office. They sell french dip sandwiches…

Frenchdip

(In case that’s a bit hard to read, it says: Like the original french dip, all of our sandwiches come “pre dipped.”)

I’m a sort of french dip devotee. A good french dip is a thing of culinary beauty. I frequently order french dip, and when they’re truly good — which is surprising rare — I become a very loyal customer of that establishment.

So when I saw a french dip truck among the food trucks, I expected great things.

But here’s the thing: I’ve already tried “authentic” pre-dipped french dip. It’s nasty. Soggy, mushy, squishy. Like eating something out of the kitchen sink strainer. I don’t want mine pre-dipped. I don’t care if that’s authentic — pre-dipped isn’t nice.

But tell that to the people in the truck and they sniff back at you, We only serve the authentic kind. They literally refuse to sell me a french dip the way I want it, undipped and with the liquid in a separate cup. So I walk over to the next truck for my lunch, hoping they aren’t too arrogant to sell me some food.

I bring you this tale of lunchtime woe, because sometimes, fundraisers act a lot like those “authentic” french dip purveyors.

They use terms like at-risk youths, food insecurity, sustainable, and ecosystems — because those are the “authentic” terms used by professionals, not what regular people understand.

They laboriously explain their processes and why those processes are so superior, rather than show donors the outcome of their giving. Because the processes are ours.

They focus on how wise, visionary, and just amazing their founders were instead of on what the donor can accomplish now.

They’re just like the french dip truck: They tell everyone it’s My way or the highway. Like it the way I like it, or get lost!

Maybe it makes them feel good.

But it’s a terrible way to try to raise funds.

Like the authentic french dip truck, they’re turning away perfectly good supporters and their perfectly good money every day.

Enjoy your superior insider knowledge. Use it to make your impact greater. But don’t insist that everyone like exactly what you like.


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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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