You Can’t Fake Greatness
Sisyphus was a very clever fundraiser.
He was so good, he could transform a spreadsheet into a tear-jerker of a story. He could extract a stirring call to action from the most bureaucratic mission statement. If an organization’s work was indistinguishable from several others’, Sisyphus still could make it seem unique and compelling.
But over time, his work grew more and more difficult. New organizations started to crop up that were fundamentally different from the ones Sisyphus worked with. Their work was exciting. They did things worth talking about — so people talked about them.
When it came to fundraising, it seemed all they had to do was let people know what they did, and donations poured in.
Back with the lumbering old-line organizations, Sisyphus had to work harder and harder for worse and worse fundraising results. It seemed his magic was no match for a more interesting reality.
Nowadays, Sisyphus is a broken and disheartened man. He’d rather roll a giant rock up a hill than struggle with fundraising. But that’s another story.
Do you feel like Sisyphus? You aren’t alone.
Too many fundraisers are fighting to raise funds for unremarkable organizations. Their work may be effective, but it’s not inspiring. So they rely on superior marketing to raise funds.
Substituting great fundraising for a great “product” used to work. But it’s less effective all the time. The best fundraising in the world can’t beat simply being an authentically remarkable organization. And what’s remarkable?
- If what you do doesn’t make people say “wow!” you aren’t remarkable.
- If there aren’t outstanding heart and head reasons for folks to give to you, you aren’t remarkable.
- If you’re just like other organizations, you aren’t remarkable. (And if only an insider can understand the difference between you and someone else, then you aren’t different.)
- If your fundraisers are working in isolation from your front-line programs, you aren’t remarkable.
It used to be you could get away with being less than remarkable. Donors gave out of a sense of duty, so it was easier motivate them to give. And they had fewer choices for charitable giving than they do today.