Help! My boss wrecks our fundraising every time! 3 things you can do

It happens all the time: Executive directors, presidents and vice presidents, board members — people who have the power to change your fundraising — can’t keep their hands off, and they don’t understand the damage they’re doing.

It’s hard, because they’re used to being asked for their opinions. And they’re used to being right — at least perceived as right. It’s even more difficult when they come from backgrounds other than fundraising.

The conventions of fundraising can look wrong to them. Not knowing otherwise, they may think you’re getting the message horribly wrong. Screwing it up in a way that’ll not only fail to raise money, but do other damage as well. That haunts them.

Their fear is your point of leverage with them: They have skin in the game. Probably more than you do. The way to win them over is to reassure them with facts:

  1. Show them books and blogs about fundraising. They need to see that you aren’t making up this crazy stuff: Fundraising has a body of professional knowledge that you understand and practice. Give them a short reading list. If that’s too much, make it easy by marking and highlighting key passages that address the issues that trouble them.
  2. Test. Let them see firsthand that best-practice fundraising really works. If your quantities are too small to yield statistically significant results, test anyway. It’ll show them that the disasters they fear aren’t going to happen. Your offer to test may persuade them you know what you’re doing and they can relax, more confident in your work.
  3. Try to discuss best practices away from the craziness of getting projects finished. The urgency you’re under makes clear thinking more difficult. Talk about it when cool heads (including yours) are on duty and rational discussions are possible.

I wish I could tell you this will work for sure. I can’t. I can say that it might work, especially over time, to get a boss off of the path of destruction.

It won’t work for everyone. And if you have one of those bosses who can’t listen, who keeps on ruining your fundraising and finds everything else in the world to blame other than herself — you should probably move along. We need your talent. And you can find bosses who won’t ruin it.

(This post first appeared on March 12, 2015.)


Comments

2 responses to “Help! My boss wrecks our fundraising every time! 3 things you can do”

  1. Only if the boss are rational. I had served a boss and the Board that they kept saying from their personal experience without considering anything else.

  2. Only if the boss are rational. I had served a boss and the Board that they kept saying from their personal experience without considering anything else.

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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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