How to find the big idea you really need to find

You could use a fundraising breakthrough right about now, I bet. And if you want a breakthrough, you need a breakthrough idea.

The problem with breakthrough ideas is that they are big, bold, and unfamiliar. Three things that can be scary, especially for those without experience in fundraising.

And let’s be frank: it’s easy to say no to something that scares you.

That’s why big fundraising ideas so often get squashed before they can be tried out.

Nonprofit culture values consensus and the airing of opinions. That’s a good thing, but it often prevents breakthroughs, by putting an effective veto in the hands of the least experienced people in the group.

The Philanthropy & Fundraising blog has some help for us on this problem, at Creative concepts: conflict, consensus and compromise.

Here’s how to avoid idea-killing compromise:

If different departments are left to negotiate the organisation’s “big message” you will end up with a compromised concept and therefore compromised performance. Decide the decision-making group before you start your creative process and make sure everyone knows who the decision-making group is. The job of the decision-making group is to make a non-compromised recommendation to the chief executive.

… all departments, including the board, should input, but the final call, and refusal to compromise, must come from the chief executive or [other authorities]. Like it or not, that’s what works if you want to raise significantly more money for your organisation.

This removes uninformed and non-accountable voices from the decision — though not from input.

Compromise culture is one of the main reasons fundraising has struggled to grow. It is no doubt behind the large number of organizations that went silent during the pandemic while those that kept in touch with donors had record-breaking years.

If you’re serious about finding your breakthrough big ideas, you need to get serious about eliminating compromise-based decision-making.


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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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