A Blast From the Past: How Much Asking is Too Much? (March 2008)
FundRaising Success published its first issue in November 2003, making this our 10th-anniversary year. To celebrate, we've been taking a look back at some of the features, columns and other editorial content from the past decade.
To hear some fundraisers talk, you might think donors are so fragile they have to be handled with exaggerated care lest they disappear in a puff of acrid smoke.
To avoid that, you walk around on tiptoes, not daring to speak to them too often (or too emphatically) because they might “burn out.”
Conventional fundraising wisdom has it that donors’ gifts are a limited resource, like an old-growth forest: Ask too often without substantial “resting” periods, and you can “overharvest” — you’ve chopped down all the trees quicker than new ones can grow.
Sounds plausible, but it’s wrong. In fact, the donor-burnout myth is one of the most harmful forces in our industry.
The limited-resource view of fundraising is based on a fundamentally unrealistic view of human nature. If you want a more realistic approach, don’t think of fundraising as a kind of removing; instead, think of it as a kind of cultivating. When you motivate a donor to give, you haven’t taken a tree out of a forest that needs time to regrow. It’s more like you’ve pruned a rose bush, encouraging more and better growth.
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