Pinky-out fundraising: When “rules” confuse you

You see it frequently: someone drinking daintily from a teacup, their little finger pointing straight out.

Why would anyone do that? Not because it’s comfortable or easy. And it certainly looks odd.

But it’s common, because many people believe it’s the “polite” way to hold your teacup.

Pinkyup

According to those care about such things, pinky-out is an impolite way to hold your teacup.

Why is an awkward, odd-looking, and against-the-rules way of holding teacups so common?

I have a theory: People have heard there’s some kind of rule governing what you do with your little finger; they expect etiquette to be arbitrary and strange — so they do the weirdest possible thing. They think they’re being super correct.

In grammar, this is called hypercorrection. Misapplying some kind of perceived rule. Like the way many people say between you and I.

The same thing sometimes happens in fundraising: Someone has heard there’s a rule, but they don’t really know what the rule is, or why, or whether it’s really something they need to follow. So they go with something they think might be right … something that’s often the worst choice.

Example: Everyone knows that photos are powerful forms of storytelling. Using a photo can really increase engagement with your message. This is true. But many fundraisers take it as an ironclad rule and slap photos all over their messages. No matter how irrelevant or self-contradictory the photos are.

Pinky way out. It’s ineffective fundraising.

It’s what fundraisers do to themselves when they want to be effective, but they aren’t in touch with what really works.

It’s easy to avoid. Read a few books. Follow a blog or two. Ask around. Get an experienced mentor. You’ll zero in on a usable level of trustworthy knowledge that can improve your fundraising results.

You’ll be drinking tea with your pinky comfortably curved inward.


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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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