Is your fundraising just like all the other fundraising?

How many times have you heard this one:

Someone — often a board member — looks at your fundraising and says, This is just like all the other fundraising I see!

Followed by the unspoken (sometimes even spoken) conclusion: That’s why it’s no good.

Think about that for a moment: The assumption is that fundraising that’s like other fundraising is crummy, but fundraising that’s totally unlike other fundraising would be good.

Other than avant garde art, can you think of any other profession where that is true?

When the plumber comes to your house to fix your sink, do you say He’s carrying a big pipe wrench, just like all the other plumbers! I don’t want him working on my sink!

When you hop in a taxi for a ride, do you say, The driver is sitting in the front seat, just like all the drivers. I want some innovation here!

When you go to the movies, do you complain loudly as you walk into the theater, Look at this theater! Just like all the others, with the floor sloping down toward the front and the screen right up there where it always is!

Like most things, fundraising is the way it is because that’s what works.

It changes, but slowly, because the audience it’s aimed at changes — slowly.

There are undiscovered innovations that will change what fundraising is like because they’re better than the usual approaches. But to discover anything like that, you have to be willing to fail many times for every success. Because that’s how innovation works.

Just ask Thomas Edison, who reportedly attempted and failed to create the light bulb 10,000 times before he succeeded.

Unless you’re on a course of discovery like Edison’s — prepared to fail a lot, and expensively — be mindful what you’re asking for when you want different fundraising. (And there are many organizations that are making just that investment; be thankful, because we’ll all benefit from their discoveries.)

If someone says, “This fundraising is just like all the other fundraising” — that should mean, “This fundraising has a decent chance of succeeding in the real world.”

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


Comments

2 responses to “Is your fundraising just like all the other fundraising?”

  1. Thanks for an interesting article Jeff. I am one of those foolish or brave enough to invest my own money in creating a new school fundraising idea you can check it out at https://supportmyschool.co.uk.
    I would value your thoughts and feedback.

  2. Thanks for an interesting article Jeff. I am one of those foolish or brave enough to invest my own money in creating a new school fundraising idea you can check it out at https://supportmyschool.co.uk.
    I would value your thoughts and feedback.

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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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