How fear of failure strangles your fundraising — and your career

Failure is not an option; it’s essential if you want to succeed.

Almost all new ideas are bad. Furthermore many bad ideas are not obviously bad — you simply have to try them out to see if they’re bad or good. If you don’t try out a lot of ideas, you won’t find good ones.

The problem is that most of our organizations have been built to ward off failure at all costs, built entirely around the recognition and rewarding of success. This mindset permeates both the formal and informal structures and decisions.

Are you dedicated to avoiding failure? If you are, please note this: This means you are also dedicated to avoiding real success. As long as failure avoidance is your motive, your success is going to be limited to things someone else discovered in the past — in some other time or place where failure was tolerated.

But it gets even worse: most things that work in fundraising slowly lose effectiveness over time. That is, good ideas slowly decay into bad ones. So until you develop a tolerance for failure, you are on a downward glide-path, no matter where you start.

Most success comes after a string of failures. In general, the bigger successes follow more failure.

So embrace failure. It’s how you succeed.


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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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