What to do when there’s a HIPPO trampling your fundraising

Is your fundraising being trampled by a HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion)?

It’s one of the most significant problems in fundraising — HIPPOS vs. best practices, HIPPOS vs. innovation, and sometimes, devastatingly, both at once.

Here’s a post from the CharityComms blog about dealing with the common hazard, at How to deal with a comms hippo:

  • Be honest. Gentle, respectful, and fact-based critiques of HIPPO behavior can work. Unless your HIPPO is a psycho (most are not), talking about it might bring change. (And see below what to do if it doesn’t.)
  • Ask the real experts. It’s not hard to find out what’s working in the larger fundraising world. Just read the blogs and the books. Go to conferences. Even hire an expert. Your HIPPO may perceive an expert as a fellow HIPPO and listen!
  • Review your processes. Does the HIPPO know what their role really should be in your process? You may be looking for a quick once-over, but they think they’re supposed to extensively review and radically modify. Set the expectations.
  • Understand your hippo. They probably aren’t doing it to torment you. Many HIPPOs have HIPPOs of their own who expect them to act that way. Many have been taught that their bad behavior is a requirement of the job. Knowing they aren’t out to get you can help you deal with them better.

Sometimes you can’t change your HIPPO. That’s when you should seriously consider getting a different job. An unrepentant HIPPO doesn’t deserve you. And while it may be wrenching to abandon a cause you care about, the world as a whole will be better off if you’re someplace where you can make a difference.

I can help you with your HIPPO issues. Take my four-part Moceanic course, 7 Steps to Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail.

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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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