What the plumber taught me about bad fundraising

A few weeks ago, our kitchen sink got clogged. Gray water swirling with bits of garbage filled the sink to the rim. I yelled at it for a while — that usually works. But it wouldn’t go down. So we called a plumber.

While the plumber was working on the sink, I noticed something disturbing: the drain pipe under the sink didn’t just go straight down. It curved back up, then down again. No wonder the sink gets stopped up!

I pointed out this obvious error to the plumber. He replied with some ridiculous mumbo-jumbo about keeping bad smells from the sewer line from getting into the house.

“That’s just outmoded old “best practices” you’re clinging to that don’t make sense in these times,” I told him.

He shrugged.

“So get rid of it,” I reasoned.

“It’s your house,” he said, and went to work revising the plumbing.

Next morning, the house was filled with a disorienting stench.

It was all that stupid plumber’s fault. I’m calling a different plumber to figure out what he did wrong.

Fundraiser: Does this story sound familiar?

Is your boss, your board, or your client completely sure that their off-the-cuff opinions about fundraising are more correct than professional knowledge?

This is a big problem. It happens a lot, in large organizations and small. It damages those organizations, cutting deeply into the revenue they need to raise. It damages all nonprofits, because it floods the world with irrelevant fundraising, training donors not to pay attention to fundraising … because it’s so often weird, confusing, and irrelevant.

Fundraisers: When they try to kill your message, don’t shrug and obey. Fight for good fundraising!

You won’t always win the fight, but at least you’ll plant the seed.

And if you work at an organization that refuses to do it right, you owe it to yourself and your profession to find a different job.


Comments

2 responses to “What the plumber taught me about bad fundraising”

  1. Jeff, you are spot on with this blog article. I wish I would have written it myself! Your plumber story is brilliant. I hope you got your plumbing worked out. Blessings.

  2. Jeff, you are spot on with this blog article. I wish I would have written it myself! Your plumber story is brilliant. I hope you got your plumbing worked out. Blessings.

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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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