Moceanic blog post

To Survive Scary Times, Don’t Freak Out!

I live with a chronic disease you’ve probably heard of all your life: Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

(Stay with me. This is about fundraising!)

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a strange disease because it’s basically damage I’m doing to myself. My immune system, for reasons unknown, is attacking the lining of the joints. This marvelous army of infection fighters has geared up and is on the attack. But it’s attacking the wrong thing. 

My immune system is freaking out – and that’s a big problem.

It causes pain almost everywhere. But worse, it eventually can permanently damage the joints themselves, leaving you with twisted, immobile hands and other joints. Until not long ago, that was what happened to everyone who had Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I often think about my immune system. It’s a marvel of biology that routinely saves me from a painful death. Life is possible for all of us because of our immune systems.

Why the heck is it going after my joints? C’mon!

The good news is, there are great treatments now. (And I’m doing quite well.)

The treatment I’m getting is a weekly dose of a medication that calms down my immune system. I don’t know how it works, but I like to think of it as a program of really excellent Happy Hours, combined with nightly cups of soothing hot cocoa, and probably some gentle music playing around the clock. It makes my immune system feel mellow and calm – enough so that it calls off the pointless and destructive attack on my joints.

And that’s where fundraising comes in.

You see, the solution to Rheumatoid Arthritis is to tell the immune system, Don’t freak out! And to take specific actions to keep it from freaking out.

Fundraisers need the same solution …

Don’t freak out!

The current uncertainty – inflation, possible recession, war, politics …

It’s scary. It needs your attention.

But don’t freak out!

Don’t take extreme action on the possibility that things are about to get a lot worse than they seem!

Remember how things felt when the pandemic first hit in the spring of 2020. Global unemployment suddenly shot sky-high. The stock markets spiraled downward. The political rhetoric got very weird. It was frightening.

Many fundraisers freaked out. They told themselves their donors were freaking out too, and that any attempt to ask them for money would backfire in a horrific way.

So, not asking, they didn’t receive. 

Meanwhile, many other fundraisers didn’t freak out. They kept in touch with donors, and donors responded at record-breaking levels. The Fundraisingology Lab, our members-only community, is awash with #win success stories shared by members!

And now, as the pandemic seems to be moving on, the organizations that freaked out not only have months or years of no revenue to make up for, but they also have smaller and less engaged donor files. It will take them years to recover. Some will never recover from their freak-out.

Same story during the financial crisis 2007-2008: Some organizations looked at the market crashes and skyrocketing unemployment and freaked out. They pulled back on fundraising, thinking donors would punish them for asking them to give in such uncertain times.

Sure enough, donors who weren’t asked to give didn’t give. Some organizations went out of business. Others suffered setbacks they still haven’t recovered from.

The no-drama anti-freak-out organizations weathered the storm.

That’s how it has gone in scary situation after scary situation: Those who freaked out did deep and lasting damage to themselves. Those who kept their nerve did much better.

When I advise you not to freak out as things are happening around us, I’m not saying you can blithely stick to business as usual as if nothing is going on.

You need to keep your eyes open and respond to the conditions you are in.

Calmly. Seeking good advice. Believing in your donors and their connection with your cause. That’s the way to act now, and all the time. It makes you more resilient, ready for whatever is coming, now and in the future. 

There’s a downside to the medication that keeps my immune system from freaking out. It might be just a bit too calm, and fail to respond appropriately to something that really is a threat.

Don’t let that happen to you.

But more important: Don’t freak out!

Good news! We’re offering an all-new and FREE Moceanic webinar called Fundraising in the Face of Inflation, Recession and Other Storms. Long-time fundraising expert Sean Triner will show you the practical steps you can take now to keep donors close and income flowing. The free webinar will only happen on September 14/15. Only a limited number will be able to attend! Sign up here!

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Author

  • 15a5bf429f3a70ba825b4be496b25422?s=80&d=mm&r=g

    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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