How to tell when they’re selling something you don’t need

I swear I’m not making this up.

I was reading fundraising blogs, and came across a post with this headline:

90% of Millennials Prefer Bitcoin Over Gold: Can you accept their donations?

I’m not going to link to it, because I’m not writing about the case for accepting Bitcoin donations. I don’t know how many donors need this, but I doubt it’s 90% of any group, even millennials. If you want to read the post, I’ve given you enough breadcrumbs to find it.

The headline is hilarious. But I’m pretty sure it’s not satire. It seems to be pushing a product that allows nonprofits to accept donations in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

I’m telling you about this because it’s a perfect example of how to sell unnecessary stuff to ignorant nonprofit decision-makers.

Here’s how this Bitcoin post — and many others like it — pulls the wool over your eyes:

Dubious claims

This post makes several, with two that stand out:

  1. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in Bitcoin has been donated to nonprofits.”
  2. “…nonprofits are finding that accepting cryptocurrency donations energizes marketing and branding efforts.”

These claims, if true, demand that you at least pay attention. But neither claim is backed with facts, and even if remotely true, such facts would be hard to verify. This is a common ploy. It’s meant to make you imagine you are missing out on something amazing that everyone else is in on.

Out-of-context factoids

The claim in the headline — that 90% of Millennial prefer Bitcoin over gold — is taken from a quote by an investment advisor. Off the top of his head, he guesses that 90% of Millennial investors prefer to invest in Bitcoin over investing in gold. The factoid has nothing to do with charitable giving.

But it sounds impressive. They’re hoping you won’t notice the gap between the claim and what you actually might need to know.

Irrelevant but interesting factoids

Here’s one especially ridiculous piece of data in the post:

Your millennial employees (and donors) talk about Bitcoin more than Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and most other prominent celebrities.

This one is supported by a Google Trends chart showing the frequency that “Justin Bieber,” “Kim Kardashian,” and “Bitcoin” have been searched in the last year. Sure enough, Bitcoin comes out ahead of these two mega-celebrities.

And that matters … because …? Well, it means exactly nothing to you and me. But just as those annoying clickbait websites know, throw around the names of celebrities, and you’ll get attention! It needn’t mean a darn thing!

The “M” word

Millennials. Make any claim about them, and many nonprofit brains go into open-mouthed drooling hypnotized mode. You’d think Millennial giving were surging and overtaking that of other generations.

It’s not.

There’s no Millennial gold rush happening. If it happens — and it likely will — it’s decades away.

But snake oil salesmen have noticed that anything that promises to connect with Millennials will get the attention of many fundraisers.

You can almost see it, right? Board meeting after board meeting, where someone brings this post and makes an impassioned plea not to be left behind as Millennials with Bitcoins burning holes in their digital pockets start looking for ways to give their cryptocurrencies away.

Being able to accept donation of cryptocurrency may be important some day. It might be already for some organizations. None that I’ve heard about, but who knows?

You should keep your eyes open for that type of change.

But protect yourself from useless spending on speculative “next-big-things” that have no value.

Watch the sales tactics. That’s how you can tell who’s got something you should pay attention to.


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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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