Donor complaints are the “Quantum Physics” of fundraising

Brookslaws

Brooks’ 5th Law of Fundraising concerns donor complaints, among the most difficult and confounding areas in fundraising, rivalling the mind-bending features of quantum physics:

The more effective the fundraising campaign, the more complaints it will generate.

First Corollary to the 5th Law

The weakest fundraising campaigns do not generate any complaints, and are thus considered successful by many.

This leads to a number of other laws and observations about complaints, the people who complain, and how organizations respond to complaints:

Brooks’ Speculation on Complaint Quality

The more silly and unfounded the donor complaint, the more seriously it will be taken.

Corollary to Brooks’ Speculation on Complaint Quality

Substantive and meaningful complaints by donors are seldom taken seriously or acted on.

And …

The less effective an organization is at fundraising, the fewer complaints they get, and the more distressed they are by any complaints they do get.

And this related theorem…

“We were flooded with donor complaints” means there were four complaints. And three of them were actually questions.

And this theorem about who makes complaints…

The length and passion of a donor complaint message is inversely proportional to the financial value of that donor.

And finally, given only for information purposes, Brooks’ Observation for Would-be Nonprofit Saboteurs:

If you want to destroy a nonprofit organization, complain to one of its board members about its fundraising.

More Laws of Fundraising here.


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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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