The question you wish board members would ask

How many times has a board member asked you a question like:

  • Why don’t we use all happy images and rewarding videos like Charity:Water?
  • Why don’t we just launch our own Ice Bucket Challenge, go viral, and raise millions?
  • Let’s just come up with an amazing tagline like “Just Do It.” We’ll be instantly famous and rolling in revenue!

You know the type of question. They’ve heard one thing (usually out of context) about some other charity (or even corporation) and think if we would just do that one amazing thing, all our problems would end.

The problem with the question is that it’s usually based on incomplete information. That one thing you’ve heard is not the whole story:

  • Charity:Water does a lot of other things beside happy images. Most of them are things few charities are able or willing to do.
  • For every Ice Bucket Challenge, there are thousands of attempted viral campaigns. And if you want to know the definition of organizational suffering, ask one of the few who “benefitted” from one of those viral campaigns.
  • Great taglines are nice, but taglines aren’t what move donors to give.

Wouldn’t it be great if a board member sent you an email like this:

I’ve been looking at Charity:Water, and I’ve noticed a few things about them:

  • They are super-specific about where each donor’s gift goes.
  • They are GREAT at acknowledging donors in powerful ways.
  • They fund administrative costs with donations from a group of major donors, so they can honestly tell other donors that “100% of your gift goes supplying safe water.”

    What would it take for us to do any or all of those things?

  • If a board member did that, what would you say? (I mean after you woke up from fainting for the surprise.)

    I hope you’d say, Let’s work on this together!

    Because that’s how you steal great ideas from organizations doing great work.

    Just zeroing in on one thing you’ve seen that you like is seldom going to make any difference at all.

    There aren’t magic easy-button things you can do that will save the day. Fundraising is hard work. The things that work are hard too.

    So next time someone comes to you with an easy-button idea, try to steer them back to the source to get the full picture.

    And then start putting their great ideas to work for you.


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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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