I love fundraisers who love fundraising

Excerpted from my book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving.

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One of my favorite things about baseball is how the players watch the game. When they aren’t on the field, they line up along the fence between the dugout and the field. They lean over it like a row of 10-year-old boys, chewing gum, even elbowing each other like happy kids at a game.

I get a “morning in America” feeling when I see that: The game proceeds at its stately pace, the grass is green, the hot dogs savory, and the players are aligned with their fans, enjoying the game with the same sense of joy. All is well.

But my outlook darkens when I notice some of the players who aren’t watching. There are always a few — usually the overpaid, underperforming superstars who seem to exist to drain the teams’ budgets and make the fans stop caring. Those guys sit glumly on the bench, enduring the game, clearly signaling that have something better to do. Come on! This is Big League Baseball! They’re living the dream. And they make a ton of money doing it.

If a handful of those disengaged baseball players is bad, imagine a whole team of them: players who find baseball an embarrassing exercise they only do so they can make their inflated salaries. They sit around and complain: about the rules of the game and the oafish fans who put them through the whole degrading spectacle. They imagine a better grade of fans — ones who will pay them without making them play the stupid game.

Those teams would always lose, no matter how talented the players. Baseball itself would disappear like a guttering candle flame if teams were like that. (Perhaps the greedy sourpusses scattered around the league are part of the reason the sport is past its glory days.)

Baseball isn’t the only profession that harbors people who hate their work. I suppose you meet them everywhere, but I’m sad to say I see them all the time in fundraising.

You’ve met them, too — those unhappy, wish-there-were-another-way fundraisers who feel victimized by the demands of fundraising. They’re always looking for better (usually younger) donors. They waste a lot of time and energy not raising funds because they constantly walk away from what works and flirt with anything that doesn’t seem to them like fundraising.

Fortunately, there’s also another type of fundraiser: the thrilled-to-be-here, aligned-with-donors type who love the beauty of the fundraising house and are nerdily thrilled about motivating people to give. (I’m talking about you.)

They make the fundraising world go ’round.

Teams made up of fundraisers who love fundraising raise dramatically more money than those who wish they could find another way. Aligned fundraisers love asking for money. They know donors love giving and are enriched by the transaction.

They’re excited about direct mail (and other old-line media) because they see the evidence every day that those high-touch connections touch donors’ hearts and stir them to action.

They aren’t looking for a magical brand formula or some amazing new social marketing phenomenon to rescue them from the day-to-day work of raising funds. They understand: They’re already tapping into the magic.

They love their elderly donors. They see them as sources of wisdom and teachers of generosity — not as old-fashioned intransigents who ignore their big ideas and spoil their fun. Shiny new objects and Next Big Things that sweep through the profession with a lot of sound and fury but have nothing to do with donors don’t interest donor-aligned fundraisers. They want real innovations that make giving easier and more compelling for donors.

When your fundraising team is full of people who love fundraising you are in good shape. There will be more good ideas and fewer bad ones. Their joy spreads around the team and out to donors, who respond more and feel more connected. It’s like the difference between an army that knows it’s fighting for a just cause and one that’s been force-marched to the battle for the benefit of its masters.

If my claims here strike you as far-fetched, look into your own mind: Think about the times you’ve had assignments that were thrilling and full of possibility. Now think about the half-baked, ill-conceived assignments that have dropped onto your desk. In which situation were you smarter, more creative, more inspired, and more likely to break through?

The difference between good and lousy assignments exists as much in your head as in the assignments themselves. How you felt about it is what made the difference in your performance. That’s how it is in fundraising.

If you love it, you’re on your way to being brilliant. If you think it’s a necessary evil, you hardly stand a chance.

No organization should tolerate anti-fundraising fundraisers. They are corrosive, and they hurt the cause. The biggest favor you can do them is let them go — free them from fundraising so they can find something that nourishes them. And free your organization from their negative influence.

A state of alignment with donors is one of the most important qualities of a donor-focused organization. It’s the secret weapon of a money-raising nonprofit brand. Nurturing and building a culture that encourages alignment should be among your most important goals.

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand is available at:


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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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