Fundraising Optimism vs. Stupidity
I have recently been filling in the gaps in my education (or perhaps the gaps in my memory) by listening to history courses from The Teaching Co. as I drive. I am currently tackling “A History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev.”
A few days ago, the course professor shared a quote from Nikolai Bukharin, a prominent leader in the Marxist party who was later executed by Stalin. When reviewing some plans proposed by the party leadership, he said, “There really ought to be a difference between optimism and stupidity.”
Isn’t that true in fundraising, as well? How often have you had to keep a straight face when someone suggested something that was … well, frankly, stupid? Will I ever forget the board member who suggested we stop doing all our fundraising activities except sending out receipts because they had the best return on investment? (I kid you not.) Or the decision that we couldn’t do research on potential major donors because it offended one of our IT staff members? Yep, we couldn’t make these things up if we tried, could we?
Here are a few things I see that (it seems to me) started out as optimism but are now sliding swiftly down the slope toward stupidity. If you identify with any of them, try to throw yourself in their paths and stop the looming disaster before it’s too late.
I’m not sure of our numbers, but we’re clearly doing OK
You probably are doing fine in many things, even great in some. But there’s a high likelihood that something in your fundraising arsenal is not as hard-working as it should be — or could be.
Our job as fundraisers is to come in every morning and figure out where our “leaks” in our programs are. Sometimes they are small pinpricks that, with a little bit of tweaking, we can repair and reap more net income. Others are huge cracks that could explode and drown our nonprofit if we don’t pay attention.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.