The most difficult word in fundraising

When you use the “search and replace” feature in Word, it goes like this:

After you type in the search term and the replace term and hit the “replace all” button, it works for a second or two, then shows you this:

Wemade

Every time I see this, a small red flag goes up in my head. (Okay, a very small red flag.)

That “we” nettles me for two reasons:

  1. I’m a writer, so I think about words quite a lot more than normal people do.
  2. I don’t know who the heck the “we” is that’s talking to me!

Since I’m the one who just did the search and replace operation, it should give me the credit and say, “You made 4 replacements.”

But we?

My theory: the person (or committee) who wrote that little dialog was thinking of the large team of folks at Microsoft who work on “Word.” It’s a large group of smart, important, very busy people. Their magnum opus is the current version of “Word,” and by gum, they deserve some credit!

So this group that’s not visible to me, that I don’t care about (if I think about them at all), walks into my life and introduces itself for no reason that matters to me. They do it because from their point of view, they are an important group that plays an important part in my documents.

I’m sorry, but the document is mine. These people — excellent people, I’m sure — have merely created a tool that I use.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

We is a difficult word. Especially in fundraising.

Fundraisers often use that same “we” when communicating with their donors. The “we” is a group of people who aren’t visible to donors.

The good deed being contemplated is the donor’s good deed.

The organization is the donor’s tool for making the good deed happen.

It’s the same way “Word” is a tool for making my document happen. There are other tools available; the “Word” people should just be thankful that I’m still paying them for the tool they make.

Same with fundraisers.

Don’t introduce an irrelevant and unimportant “we” into your discussion with donors. Put a good deed in front of the donor. Ask her to do that good deed. When she does it, give her credit for doing it.

The fact that she needs your organization to accomplish that good deed is beside the point. You are still just a tool. (And chances are, there are other tools available to her.)

Be the best possible tool. Be proud that you are the best possible tool. Reward and recognize team members who make it happen.

But don’t intrude on the donor’s work.

Will an errant “royal we” sneaking into your fundraising now and then kill response? Probably not.

I think the real threat to your fundraising is your own psychology about who’s important in the relationship. If you’re pushing that “we” at the donor, chances are the entire way you think about fundraising is off kilter. It’s essentially saying, “Give us some money so we can do something great with it.

Real fundraising says, “Do something great by giving.”

“We” butt out of the conversation.

As it should in my search and replace dialog.


Comments

4 responses to “The most difficult word in fundraising”

  1. “The fact that she needs your organization to accomplish that good deed is beside the point. You are still just a tool.”
    Ouch. Many nonprofit staffers already feel demoralized by low wages, long hours, and invisibility.
    How do you feel about this?
    https://communitycentricfundraising.org/

  2. “The fact that she needs your organization to accomplish that good deed is beside the point. You are still just a tool.”
    Ouch. Many nonprofit staffers already feel demoralized by low wages, long hours, and invisibility.
    How do you feel about this?
    https://communitycentricfundraising.org/

  3. Hi Cindy,
    There’s no question many nonprofit employees work under terrible conditions. It’s a pervasive problem. But you won’t fix it by making your fundraising “feel better” to staff. That will only make it worse, because you’ll raise less money, deepening the scarcity that drives a lot of the poor working conditions.
    It’s a leadership problem, not a fundraising message problem.

  4. Hi Cindy,
    There’s no question many nonprofit employees work under terrible conditions. It’s a pervasive problem. But you won’t fix it by making your fundraising “feel better” to staff. That will only make it worse, because you’ll raise less money, deepening the scarcity that drives a lot of the poor working conditions.
    It’s a leadership problem, not a fundraising message problem.

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog