Are you raising funds like Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice?

If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you probably enjoy the character Mr. Collins. He’s a well-meaning but seriously awkward clergyman who shows up intending to marry one of the Bennet daughters. When he decides Elizabeth is his choice, be basically corners her and proposes:

My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly … it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject … [he then goes on for about 200 words about the advice from his patroness, a wealthy and unlikable lady most people would rather avoid and few would take advice from].

Collins-proposing

It’s a funny scene. But also painful. His lack of self-awareness is embarrassing. But worse is how he frames his proposal not around what it would mean for Elizabeth, or even what it would mean for both of them together, but why it would be good for him.

A lot of fundraising is like that:

“You should donate to us because it would be good for us and our work if you did.”

It’s easy to fall into the Mr. Collins trap, because it really would be good for you if they donated to you.

But that’s not why they give.

They give for reasons within themselves. They want to put their values into action. Or they want to prove to themselves that they are good people. Or they have guilt they need to work on. Whatever it is, they’ll say yes when they can see that their donation to you accomplishes their goals. Your goals are barely relevant to them.

And when you focus on your goals for their gift, you come across as a self-centered and clueless Mr. Collins.

And donors will with something like what Elizabeth says (in response to another unsuitable proposal): “The mode of your declaration … spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you….”

In reality, they probably won’t say anything at all. They’ll just move on to something more relevant to them.

Don’t be Mr. Collins! Make sure your fundraising is:

  • To donors (not yourself).
  • About them and what they know and care about.
  • About what’s in it for them.

You’ll do better that way!


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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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