The danger of being “more creative” in fundraising

Be more creative!

I hate it when people say that.

I’m all for creativity. No question, we need more of it. Everywhere — business, government, and especially nonprofits.

The idea of being more creative should get us excited, like a racehorse at the starting gate. We should feel freedom and energy to tackle challenges in new ways, to think big, to broaden our horizons.

But it seldom works that way when someone says Be more creative.

Because, sadly, what “be more creative” really means, almost every time you hear it, is this: Do the work in a way nobody has ever done it before.

Examples of what “be more creative” has meant in real-life fundraising:


  • Leave out the reply coupon. It’s not creative.
  • Don’t ask donors for specific amounts of money. That’s old hat.
  • Let’s stop doing boring old uncreative direct mail. Social media is way more creative.

In other words, “I’m bored with the conventions. I want change.”

That’s not freedom. It doesn’t help you think big. It never opens up new vistas. It’s just a ticket for the express train to fundraising failure.

Here’s why: When you ignore the body of knowledge we have about fundraising and about donors, your chance of spectacular failure skyrockets. No matter how “creative” it is.

An inexperienced tennis player hates the net. It’s just in the way; you keep hitting the ball into it. And don’t get me started about the boundary lines — the game would be so much more fun without them!

An experienced tennis player loves the net. And the lines. Because they give the game shape, focus, and speed.

The truly creative fundraiser works with the knowledge we have. It gives focus to your creativity and innovation.

So be more creative. But in the smart, innovative, knowledge-based way.

Looking for the right level of fundraising creativity? I can help you. Book me for one-on-one coaching. It’s fun! Click here for detail and how to book here.

(This post first appeared on September 1, 2011.)


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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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