Way worse than “BOO” — things you really don’t want to hear in fundraising

Halloween is a time when we seek that thrill of fear — the tiny fingers on the back of the neck. In real life, it’s not so much fun.

Here are some scary things you might hear:

“Let’s stop bugging the major donors with our mail.”

There’s a belief out there that major donors are “more sophisticated” than others, and that they hate direct mail. So let’s just quit sending them that hateful mail. It’s probably making them not give.

Your job with a major donor is to build a true relationship. Not to make decisions for them. Truth is, the large majority of major donors start out as direct mail donors. They became major because that junky, annoying direct mail worked. Don’t stop “bugging” them with direct mail unless you specifically know it bugs them!

“It’s time we went all digital with our fundraising”

Communicating digitally is a lot cheaper than getting paper into people’s hands. It’s also less error-prone. You’ve no doubt also experienced a dramatic increase in online giving recently, while the costs of printing and postage rise. But if those things lead you to abandon traditional channels like direct mail, digital channels will shrivel. It’s the quick way to wipe out years of progress stewarding your donors.

“Let’s take a break from getting new donors”

When times are hard, it’s hard to keep spending money on acquisition. It’s an area where most of us lose money even in good times. When response drops, good luck. Thing is, when you cut acquisition, you slash the future. You guarantee that the hard times will last. If you stop acquisition for long enough, you can send your organization into a death-spiral.

“Let’s hire branding experts”

Brand experts are the marauding, brain-eating zombies of the fundraising world. If they show up at your door, slam it. If they get in, run away. They are going to devour your fundraising program with their grand abstractions and faddish design. After the branding experts have come and gone, many organizations are stuck with a drop of up to 50% in fundraising revenue.


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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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