How personal opinions destroy fundraising effectiveness

Seth Godin once asked a question I wish would be widely asked within nonprofit organizations: Is everyone entitled to their opinion?

In the consensus-heavy world of nonprofits, a lot of people’s opinions are sought and valued. This is probably one of the most destructive forces in our industry.

As Seth notes, not everyone’s opinion is valuable:

If you’re working in Accounts Payable and you hate the company’s new logo, the people who created it should and must ignore your opinion. It just doesn’t matter to anyone but you.

I know you don’t like cilantro, but whether or not you like it is not extensible to the population at large.

Some people’s opinions are positively deadly.

I once worked with an organization that asked everyone to weigh in on their fundraising. One of the most vocal and opinionated people was the receptionist. She had no particular insight or knowledge about fundraising or their donors. In fact, she was profoundly ignorant and consistently wrong in her strongly held opinions. But she kept getting asked, and she always had something to say.

Through the changes she forced on their fundraising, this receptionist probably cost her employer several thousand dollars a week in lost revenue. In fact, if you added the lost revenue to her salary, she was probably drawing a good seven figures annually. That’s an expensive receptionist.

Just because someone works in your organization and is dedicated, valuable, admirable, or nice doesn’t mean they have one useful or helpful thing to say about fundraising. Just because someone holds strong opinions about fundraising doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. And hardly anyone’s personal likes and dislikes should translate into guidance for what’s the right way to do anything.

Listen to those who can back their opinions with knowledge and experience. Find a different way to value and respect everyone else. The purpose of fundraising is to raise funds, not to be a creative outlet for your staff.

(This post first appeared on April 23, 2012.)


Comments

2 responses to “How personal opinions destroy fundraising effectiveness”

  1. Recently, I sat in front of a CEO of a nonprofit. He spent 30 minutes telling me why he disliked the messaging we presented for a fundraising campaign. Patiently, I listened to every word and when he was finished speaking, I responded with fundraising best practices to each of his concerns. He thanked me for saving him from himself. All great ideas must be able to stand scrutiny no matter who is questioning them.

  2. Recently, I sat in front of a CEO of a nonprofit. He spent 30 minutes telling me why he disliked the messaging we presented for a fundraising campaign. Patiently, I listened to every word and when he was finished speaking, I responded with fundraising best practices to each of his concerns. He thanked me for saving him from himself. All great ideas must be able to stand scrutiny no matter who is questioning them.

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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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