Bad advice charities are given

Crazy Advice Charities Are Given


Sean Triner, Fundraisingologist at Moceanic and Lynne Boardman, Managing Director at Harvey McKinnon Associates tackle some common advice nonprofits receive, including:

  • “Don’t ask your donors to put you in your will. Talking about death will upset them.”
  • “Don’t thank donors who give small gifts.”
  • “Don’t send mail to major donors.”

All three are bad advice that can cost a non-profit organisation dearly. Find out the truth to counter each!

Please share your thoughts by leaving a reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.


  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • “That’s the most complaints we’ve ever had, let’s never do another acquisition mailer.” (After reading a report that stated we received 400+ new donors and and net results of more than $14,000… and 13 complaints.)

    • Sadly, we often pay a lot more attention to a small number of people who complain rather than a large number who said YES with their money!

  • This is recent, 2017. A prior client I’d talked to about donor newsletters had just emailed me; wry and embarrassed. She’d fallen for some opinionated local graphic designer’s proclaimation, “Well, bless your hearts! Nobody EVER opens envelopes any more!” ¶ News to me. Apparently I’d missed the memo about how all us humans have X-ray vision now. ¶ So anyway my trusting charity client says OK and sends out the next donor newsletter as a self-mailer, NOT in an envelope. ¶ Per the graphic designer’s toe-thumping dictate. ¶ AND voila REVENUE — that is, the sum dollar amount of gifts coming back thanks to the newsletter — FALLS BY HALF immediately. ¶ Look: there is research available about print donor newsletters and the Domain Formula. LOTS of research. ONLINE: at your fingertips. AND YET … this graphic designer — YOUR graphic designer maybe? — didn’t even know that such research exists. She was FULLY confident of her unsubstantiated opinion, of a thought that had just popped into her head. ¶ Don’t trust other “professionals” too much. They may be as professional as you need them to be. But fundraising is arcane. They may not know everything they need to know. E.G., lucrative donor communications require a thorough grounding in applied psychology. You don’t pick that up in passing. ¶ Remain skeptical. Learn for yourself what works. Experiment all the time.


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