When the fundraising is not good

Here’s a super-short blog post from Seth Godin that every nonprofit leader should read: “It’s just not that good.”

He makes a distinction that everyone who has the job of evaluating fundraising should make if they’re thinking “It’s just not that good.”

  1. You might mean, “I don’t like it, it doesn’t appeal to me.”
  2. Or you might mean “I understand what has appealed to the audience you’re trying to serve, and this isn’t going to work.”

Seth’s takeaway that nonprofit leaders should take note of is this:

If you mean #1, what you have to say is not helpful or valuable. You might want to keep it to yourself, because you’re just as likely to harm the project as help it. (Actually, you’re far more likely to cause harm.)

But if you mean #2 — and you have expertise and experience backing you up, that’s valuable.

So when you see fundraising that gives you a negative reaction of some kind, before you share your thought with anyone else, do this:

  • Take a deep breath and count to 5.
  • Ask yourself if you mean “it doesn’t appeal to me”
  • Then ask if you mean, “I have specific knowledge that tells me this is unlikely to work.”

If you realize you meant “it doesn’t appeal to me,” bite your tongue, clam up, put away your red pen.

But if you meant “I have knowledge that says it might not work,” say so. It’s important!

This little bit of self-knowledge is not easy. But it’s one of the main things that separate leaders from micro-managers. And struggling nonprofits from successful ones.


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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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