Loch Ness Monster blog post

Is the Donor Fatigue Monster Hiding under Your Bed?

Most children go through a phase where they believe there’s a monster hiding under their bed. It lives only in their imagination, but it really terrifies them.

Why do they do that?

In all the history of the world, all the children in all the beds, has there ever been a monster?

[Jeff goes and checks under his bed, just to make sure.]

No. I’m quite confident there are no monsters under any of the beds.

Kids imagine monsters under the bed as a way of giving focus to their amorphous bedtime fears: fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of abandonment, etc. Those things are hard for them to understand, hard for them to describe.

So they create something concrete to focus on: A monster. Nearby, but out of sight.

In a way, that monster is a kind of comfort. It’s scary, but that may be easier to handle than the real fears that they don’t fully understand.

Fundraisers do the same thing.

They have plenty of things to be afraid of. Changing donor demographics and habits. Changing technology use. Rising costs. Leaders who don’t get it. And fundraising is just plain hard. All these things can sink your fundraising.

So we have created something to focus our fear on:

Donor fatigue.

Donor fatigue is a dark fantasy we fundraisers create in our minds to give focus to our fears.

Like the fears of children, some of our fears are not reasonable; they flow from our ignorance. But some of our fears are very real. It’s hard to tell the difference between the realistic fears and the unrealistic ones. That’s why a made-up bogey man like donor fatigue thrives in our profession, despite the fact that it doesn’t really exist.

Let’s start our conquest of the donor fatigue monster by describing it:

Donor fatigue is a theoretical condition in which donors — all of them, or at least an awful lot of them — get tired of giving and become measurably less responsive to fundraising. The extra-scary version has it that donors not only tire of giving, but turn against us fundraisers and opt out of all giving entirely because they’re so fed up with our fundraising. It’s usually described as fatigue about a specific topic — usually a famine or other large-scale disaster, but sometimes it’s giving in general.

Okay, no kidding. That’s super scary. If it ever actually happened, it would really be something to focus on.

But, as you’ll see, donor fatigue doesn’t really happen.

Except in one way, and this is what should worry you: If you believe in donor fatigue, it becomes real. (I’m pretty sure the monster under the bed never does that!)

Here’s how it works:  You believe in donor fatigue — you believe donors will not respond — so you don’t bother asking them to give.

Not being asked, they don’t give.

Presto! A monster materializes out of nowhere. Donor fatigue has become a reality!

But it’s not caused by donors. It’s caused by fundraisers.

The monster of the moment is “coronavirus fatigue.” It’s a belief that we’ve completely tapped out donors with our fundraising about the pandemic and its impacts. They’re just sick of it, and they will not respond!

I have not seen any evidence of this. Those fundraisers who are still putting out those messages are still doing well. Not all are getting the jaw-dropping results they were getting a few weeks ago, but they’re still doing better than normal.

So your best course of action is to ignore the monster under the bed. Continue raising funds. That is your path to success.

But let me throw you a curve: Something like donor fatigue really does happen sometimes.

For the scared kid, there’s no monster, but it might turn out there’s a spider under the bed — and what is a spider but a very small monster?

Your spider under the bed is this: As with all disasters, the pandemic and its aftermath will eventually fade as a motivating topic for donors. For all of us, there is coming a time when something other than the pandemic is more effective at moving donors to give.

That’s not an “if” — it will happen. We don’t know when. We’ve all been surprised at how long the high responsiveness to this crisis has lasted. Far longer than any other crisis in my career. My guess is that the drop in giving to pandemic messaging will happen at different times and different speeds depending on where you are and/or what fundraising sector you’re in.

Two things that will serve you well between now and when giving starts to dip:

  1. Keep your finger on the pulse of your donors. Until you see a steep drop in responsiveness to virus-related fundraising, you should keep doing it. But when that drop happens, be ready to pivot to other messages.
  2. Don’t decide for your donors that they are fatigued! That’s their decision, not yours.

I know you’re tired of talking about the pandemic. I sure am. But that’s not a reason to stop talking about it — if it is still a concern for your donors.

Base your fundraising on knowledge. Not on fears.

Don’t believe in donor fatigue just because someone says it’s happening — but they don’t offer evidence. And don’t believe it even though it feels believable.

Because when you fall for the donor fatigue myth, it will become a reality.

One of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse of donors is to belong to a community of smart fundraisers who share knowledge. That’s what you’ll get when you join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a true community, the thing we all need most right now — plus all kinds of courses, templates, checklists, and other resources that can help you go to new places as a fundraiser. More information here.

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Why We All Feel So Bad

It’s Not Just You: Why We All Feel So Bad Right Now — and How to Cope

Have you had any really stupid fights with people in your life lately?

Do you feel like you “run out of gas” much too early in the day?

Have you been making bonehead mistakes that you would normally never make?

Welcome to the club. We’re all doing these things.

And there’s a reason. It’s described in a recent Harvard Business Review article on the psychology of living through a crisis: If You Feel Like You’re Regressing, You’re Not Alone .

According to this helpful article, there’s a predictable trajectory to living in a crisis. It goes like this:

  1. Emergency
  2. Regression
  3. Recovery

Guess where we are at right now.

That’s right, regression. The bad stage.

Here’s how the article puts it:

“In the beginning, when the emergency becomes clear, team energy rises, and performance goes up…. Then the second phase hits: a regression phase, where people get tired, lose their sense of purpose, start fighting about the small stuff, and forget to do basic things ….”

Umm … yes. Have they been spying on me?

You’ve heard of the seven stages of grief. Seven distinct stages, most of them truly unpleasant. But you can’t skip them. There’s no way around — only through.

Living in a crisis is like that. As much as you’d like to hang on to the energy and sense of purpose that marks the first phase, that’s over now.

You are in the regression phase.

It’s miserable. But it’s where we are now.

Knowing it’s not just you really helps. Knowing it’s normal helps too.

But here’s some additional things worth knowing about yourself right now, from an article in Healthline: How ‘Anticipatory Grief’ May Show Up During the COVID-19 Outbreak .

Anticipatory Grief is a sense of loss of normal life, not only now but in the future. Everything is weird right now, and we sense that things might never get really normal ever again.

So we grieve.

It takes shape in things like these:

  • You’re on edge — and it’s not always clear exactly why.
  • You feel angry at things you can’t control.
  • You’re resigned to the worst-case scenario.
  • You find yourself withdrawing or avoiding others.
  • You’re completely exhausted.

Here are some things you can do to cope with all this:

Validate and affirm your feelings. You aren’t messed up for feeling this way. We all feel this way. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to hide.

Get back to basics. Seriously, it’s more important than ever that you eat well, stay hydrated, get the rest you need — all that normal stuff. Don’t let that stuff slide!

Connect with others, even if you don’t want to. It’s tempting to shut down when you’re stressed. (Especially if you’re an introvert.) Don’t! Seek connection. You need it more than ever right now. Remember that friendship is joy multiplied and sorrow divided.

Prioritize rest and relaxation. Anxiety makes you wear yourself down. You have to consciously seek calm. Be dogmatic about getting the rest you need.

Express yourself. Do creative things. Journaling, dancing, music, art — it really helps.

Talk to a professional. It’s okay to get help. It’s not a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of wisdom. Online therapy is a real thing that you can use now!

Remember, you’re not alone.

Remember also that this time will pass. It will not always be this way.

And when it passes, you will be stronger than ever before.

Get all kinds of support by joining The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a gathering of the kind of smart and loving fundraisers you really want to hang out with — along with all kinds of courses, templates, checklists, and other resources that can help you go to new places as a fundraiser. More information here.

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Pop Art tired woman with laptop 1 e1593500788636

3 Powerful Facts That Can Help You Keep Up The Pace In Times Like This

I got one of those emails so full of ALL-CAPS, it had to either be from someone who doesn’t know how to unclick the caps lock key, or from someone really yelling for help.

It was the latter.

They needed a special “Coronavirus Edition” of their donor newsletter.

And they needed me to write the whole thing in 24 hours.

I already had a full inbox of other tight deadlines, almost all connected to the pandemic.

I sometimes get dumb requests that are bad ideas and projects that are urgent only because someone hasn’t been thinking. It’s not so hard saying no to those. But this wasn’t like that. I always want to say yes to quality organizations doing projects that are strategically smart. That’s my mission, my duty, and my main source of income.

I sat there looking at the email, and a strange combination of panic and weariness swept over me.

That was Tuesday. You know, just about any Tuesday.

It’s been like that for about 13 weeks. With no change in sight.

I’m not sure how much longer I can keep up this pace.

And I know I’m not the only one. I’m hearing from fundraisers all over the world, and they’re saying the same thing: “I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”

There’s a discussion about this going on at The Fundraisingology Lab members-only Facebook group, where the word “exhausted” shows up again and again.

Smart fundraisers have been raising a lot of money since the pandemic hit. They’ve done it by working hard.

And fast.

And ceaselessly.

It’s not just the raw workload that’s getting us. We can’t do so many of the things that give our lives shape, meaning, variation. I can’t go down to the café. Or the pub. Or to church. And there’s no live music to make or to listen to. Without those things, life has a hard edge.

We’re also afraid. For our health. For the health of our loved ones. For our own economic wellbeing. Many of us in the US are further stressed and saddened by a wave of police brutality, reminding us just how far we are from living up to the values and ideals of our nation. Throw on that the antics of leaders who seem to be planning to have our own military take up arms against us … it just takes your energy away.

The way you’re feeling right now? It’s real. These are not normal times.

So let me give you three facts I hope you’ll consider:

Fact #1: You are not alone

Those other people in Zoom meetings who look relaxed and happy — they’re going through all of it too. You just can’t read the anxiety in their heads or the fear in their hearts. Or the chaos in the room just outside camera range. They probably think you have it all together.

None of us do. We’re all freaked out and wondering how much longer we can take it. Remember that.

Take advantage of any community you can right now. It’s more important than you know.

Fact #2: You have a responsibility to take care of yourself

You’re no good to yourself or anyone else if you burn out. And you are going to burn out if you don’t take care of yourself.

So make it a priority.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Say “no” now and then to things you’re asked to do. (This may be the most difficult item on this list!)
  • Take off one day every week. Really take it off. No projects, no checking email, no quick phone calls. Make the day different.
  • Take time for music.
  • Practice some kind of meditation every day.
  • Talk to people you like. (See above: You are not alone!)

Self-care is not easy. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us.

But you have to do it.

Fact #3: This could be a turning point in your life

The coronavirus pandemic — along with economic, political, and social things surrounding it is a very big deal.

Possibly the biggest deal since World War II.

What does that mean for your future? Just look at those who went through the war. Millions of people died, but those who survived were transformed by it.

That generation faced things no one ever wants to face. They served in the military. They supported the war effort at huge personal sacrifice. They lived in cities that were bombed, from London to Hiroshima and everywhere in-between. They faced attempts to exterminate them.

The survivors carried the pain and sorrow of it for the rest of their lives, but they also grew.

They became giants — because they faced giant challenges.

What we’re facing today doesn’t really compare to a world war. But the impact may be big, nevertheless. The struggles you face will transform you. Make you stronger, more resilient, more capable than you ever thought possible. In the years to come, you may look back at 2020 as the year you became.

The younger you are now, the bigger the impact. Old farts like me are pretty much fully formed, for good or for ill. But if you’re under 30 (or so), you are laying a foundation right now that you will build on for decades to come.

You probably know at least one person who has survived cancer. Who went through chemo or other difficult treatments. Who faced the possibility that they might not make it.

Every person I know who has been through a serious battle with cancer looks back on it with gratitude. Because it made them stronger, better, deeper. And they value the difference it made for them.

Big challenges make big people.

Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier now. But it can give even more purpose to hard times.

Please remember these three facts when you feel overwhelmed. You’ll make it.

Want to join a ready-made community of excellent, super-cool fundraisers? Join The Fundraisingology Lab. Click through for the details.

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Pop Art Flu headache e1583882659625

Facing Post-Crisis Budget Cuts? Here’s What You Must NOT Cut

There’s a chance budget cuts are coming for your organization. The COVID-19 crisis is hitting a lot of organizations hard, mainly for these three reasons:

  • Cancelled fundraising events.
  • Lost revenue from cancelled activities that bring in critical revenue.
  • Non-existent fundraising.

That last one is self-inflicted. Those who have been raising funds over the last few weeks and months have been doing exceedingly well. But that’s no comfort for those who have chosen to go silent on their donors. Lost revenue is lost revenue, no matter what the cause.

A recent Charity Navigator survey about the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on nonprofit organizations found that 83% of respondents reported they are suffering financially.

And that means budget cuts. A lot of them.

Not all cuts are equal. Some are deeply destructive and can lead to years of financial hardship, or even bankruptcy.

But some may not be so bad. Knowing the difference could mean the difference between survival and a healthy recovery as the crisis eases.

The budget cut to fight

Don’t cut new donor acquisition. This will be a tough battle, but you should fight it like a rabid weasel.

I’m pretty sure the knife-wielders have their eyes on your donor-acquisition program. They imagine it’s a big, juicy, painless cut. Most likely, acquisition is a net cost to your organization. That means every dollar cut from acquisition improves your bottom line while the pressure is on.

But here’s the problem: Cutting donor acquisition doesn’t inflict much immediate pain, but it’s going to hurt in the future. It’s going to hurt a lot, and not just people’s feelings. Abandoning acquisition can create catastrophic and lasting financial impacts in the form of depressed fundraising for years to come.

The hard-to-see truth is that donors grow more valuable to the organization every year they’re with you. Their responsiveness, retention, even their likelihood of upgrading their giving amounts — they all increase every year they are with you. Here’s how it plays out:

  • At the point of acquisition, you’re losing money. Almost everyone does. (Though it’s worth noting that right now, at the height of the crisis, many are bringing in new donors at a profit! But that’s not normal.)
  • If your program is healthy and consistent, you’ll start to break even on that initial investment in 12 to 18 months (give or take a few!)
  • After another year, you’re earning a 2-to-1 return from those donors who are still with you.
  • In the third year, your return rises to around 3-to-1. Starting to look good.
  • The real payoff comes in the fourth and following years, when those established donors are returning $10 (or more) for every dollar you spend.
  • More important are those who upgrade to higher levels: Those who become major donors, bequest donors, or monthly donors. If you don’t get any new donors, you don’t have a source for those super-important donors.
  • Those cuts to donor acquisition leave a black hole in the middle of your donor base — a vacuum where there should have been responsive, committed donors.

Every fundraising campaign you launch for years to come will do worse than it should, because you’re missing those donors who didn’t join you because you cut fundraising. It’s not just fewer bodies. It’s fewer committed supporters. And that empty donor class continues to echo through your fundraising. The pain tends to peak three to four years after the cuts, but it will be meaningful and measurable for seven to 10 years.

Do your budget-cutters know this? Would they still make the “easy” cuts to donor acquisition if they did? They might think that cutting acquisition is no worse than getting a bad haircut. But it’s actually more like amputating your legs.

The budget cut you can make

You might do better in the critical battle to protect donor acquisition if you’re willing to give the knife guys something they can slash without a fight. After all, there’s a big hole in your budget that you have to deal with!

This is going to make me spectacularly unpopular in some quarters, but I’m putting the whole class of branding and awareness activities in the go-ahead-and-cut category. That’s because there’s no direct, measurable connection between those expenses and any meaningful impact on your bottom line. Cutting these activities doesn’t hurt in the short term — or in the long term.

Spending on advertising is an act of faith. Faith can be a beautiful thing, but it’s not the best basis for business decisions. In hard times, you’ve got to put your dollars into measurable activities, like direct response fundraising.

Some brand advocates will tell you their work is measurable. They’ll cite metrics like “unaided recall” — meaning that when surveyed, more people mention your organization’s name than did before — or “aided recall,” where people claim to have heard your name when they hear it.

Pardon me, but do you mind if I roll my eyes? Measuring “recall” and things like it is almost completely bogus.

It’s possibly true (though it can’t be proven) that someone who’s heard of you is more likely to donate than someone who hasn’t heard of you. But that’s not a fact you can take to the bank. For one thing, it doesn’t cost anyone a cent to tell you they’ve heard of you — it’s just a thought, an idea. For another thing, as all direct marketers know, the divide between what people say and what they actually do is wide. Since we’re talking budgets here, stuff you can take to the bank is pretty much the whole thing.

Think of it this way: Would you rather move 100 people 10% of the way toward giving or move 10 people 100% of the way toward giving?

In the first scenario — which is a branding or awareness campaign — your revenue is zero, no matter how much you spent. In the second scenario — a classic direct-response fundraising campaign — you end up with revenue. The only question is whether it came at an acceptable cost.

In flush, easy, noncutting times, you might be able to spend money on speculative ventures like branding and awareness and be okay with the non-measurable benefits that could come as a result.

But not when the budget cutters are active. So hand branding activities over to the knifers. It’s how you might survive beyond the next year or two.

Looking for help with the hard decisions you face in the coming months? Get one of our expert Fundraisingologists at your side through Moceanic’s Coaching+. We’ll work with you and your leaders to make the right moves that will build a solid future! Check it out here.

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pop art thank you speech bubble from dreamstime e1558306072415
CoronavirusDonor Love

5 Donor Love Must-Do’s for the COVID-19 Crisis

Think for a moment what it’s like to be a donor right now during this pandemic crisis…

  • You are afraid — for your own health, your economic future, for your family and loved ones, for the world.
  • You want to help.  After all, you are a donor, and that’s what you do!
  • You are getting a lot of emergency fundraising about the current situation — probably more than you could possibly respond to. At the same time, some of your favorite organizations have gone silent on you.
  • You want to do the right thing and donate where you can make a difference, but it’s hard to tell what’s your best choice.

How do we as fundraisers give our donors what they need most in these confusing and difficult times?

You show them the love.

You go all in on Donor Love.

Here are five things you can do that will boost your donors’ confidence and make them glad they give to your organization during this time of crisis. These things will not only make your donor feel better, but they’ll increase the chance that your donor will keep being your donor — through this crisis and long after.

  1. Say thank you every time you interact with donors

Thanking for a donation is obvious. But let me challenge you to take a look at your standard donation thank you letter (maybe you call it your receipt or acknowledgment letter), website donation auto response, and standard email donation acknowledgment. Do they use the words THANK YOU? Do they use the words THANK YOU more than once? You might be surprised. I know I am when I see how often the message meant to thank donors doesn’t actually say thank you!

This is the most important time ever to ramp up the thankfulness.

Even better, make sure those thank you letters are very specific to the impact your donor has had.

Now consider how you can say thank you even more. Thank you for calling. Thank you for your email. Thank you for your feedback (even when they give feedback you find challenging). Build this into phone scripts and email templates as standard.

Your donor needs to hear it. Again and again. Especially now — and what you do now will have outsized impact.

  1. Handwrite a note on their receipt / thank you letter

Show your donor that a real human acknowledges the wonderful thing they did. This really comes to life when you not only hand-sign thank you letters, but also add a smiley face or quick handwritten note.

  1. Call them to say thank you

This is another powerful way to show your donor that a real human acknowledges the wonderful thing they did. Thank you calls are really impactful. You can also simply set the task of trying to call and thank every donor, once in the year. It doesn’t have to be in response to a specific gift. Have an example of the impact they have had and call and thank them for being part of that impact and acknowledge how long they have been giving.

Check out Amnesty Australia’s brilliant all staff Thank You Day. I should warn you that this video may make you want to get everyone involved in thanking your donors, which is an incredible way to support fundraising within your organisation.

  1. Give them opportunities for feedback, questions and sharing

A Supporter Connection Survey is a great way to do this — and it has heaps of added benefits. (Find out more about this tool by reading Here’s One Easy Tool That Transforms Your Fundraising).

A donor care letter is another way to do this. (Read about how to do one of these at A Great Way to REALLY Thank Your Donors.)

Give them a way to communicate with you on your appeal response forms such as a comments or feedback box. Literally say, “I’d love to hear any feedback you have about how I communicate with you” or “If you have any questions about the impact you are having on X, please let me know below” or “I’d love to know why you chose to give to support X today, please let me know.”

And here’s something courageous leaders do: Give donors a way to get in touch personally – my favorite is providing your email address (not a generic one but your actual email address) and direct phone number in your next appeal letter. Don’t worry — you won’t have hundreds of donors calling you, but the few who do are engaged and worthy of your time.

  1. Implement an acknowledgment strategy

The following table is an example of how you can get started with an acknowledgment strategy. It starts with the key donor groups this charity has, ranked by priority. It assigns a person to be responsible for their piece of donor love. And it details the standard action to be taken by the person responsible when a donation is made.

This organisation uses multiple team members and multiple tactics to show the love. Most importantly, it is programmed so it happens.

Every interaction is captured in their database so it can be tracked. The Mid and Major Donor teams use the opportunity as part of their engagement and prospecting, the Bequest Manager uses the opportunity to stay in touch, the Fundraising Manager uses the opportunity to help their team engage with donors.

They also use a surprise and delight approach, which sees them gather together small gifts that are produced as part of their wider fundraising and communications activity (such as premiums from returned acquisition packs or appeals, leftover merchandise and gifts from events) as well as some purposely produced items they know donors love.

The team is given the opportunity to use their discretion to add these small gifts of thanks to thank you letters as a way of surprising and delighting donors in an appropriate and cost-effective way.

Donor Type

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career — even when times are tough. Join The Fundraisingology Lab for extraordinary training, resources, cheat-sheets, and a worldwide community of fundraisers who will lift your spirits and transform your career.

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Pop Art Fear

The One Thing Every Fundraiser Should Be Afraid of Now

It’s March 4, 1933. The Great Depression has been going for three-plus years, and is at its lowest point. People are terrified. Some say it’s the end of the United States, of the whole Western World.

A new US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, steps up to the podium for his inaugural address. He was a change candidate and won by a landslide. Now he has to make good on the promise people voted for. What he says in this speech really matters.

The speech he gives is his famous “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech. We’ve been quoting that phrase ever since whenever anything scary is happening.

What we seldom repeat is the rest of that sentence about fear itself:

…fear — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

That’s something we need now, while we face another frightening situation.

Because, like then, we’re in a bad situation. But bad as it is, there’s something else that could do a whole lot more damage than the situation itself…

It’s fear.

The bad decisions — or complete inaction — that come from fear can make a bad situation much, much worse.

And, sadly, we’re seeing that happen with nonprofits.

They try to raise funds, but they are so driven by fear, they can’t get it right. Not even close.

It goes something like this: they commission a committee of 17 people to group-write their fundraising piece. Probably no fundraising professionals on the committee (who needs them?) — just wall-to-wall VPs, with a few lawyers and accountants thrown in.

The committee chews on every word, settling on the least powerful one they can all agree on. Then they add clause after clause to each sentence to make sure every base, real and imagined, is covered. And they make sure nothing is vivid, or strong, or urgent.

The end product: Fundraising of such thundering incompetence that even in an urgent situation like the one we’re in, it raises a fraction of what it could.

Worse yet, they really cover their rear-ends by going completely silent.

They’re crippled with fear that something they say might cause some kind of terrible blow-back from donors. I don’t know what kind of fantasy scenario it might be. Maybe they imagine every single donor being disgusted by their daring to speak out loud during a crisis and walking away forever? A malpractice lawsuit? A violent uprising with torches and pitchforks?

Hide like a rabbit in a hole. Nobody will blame you for anything if you do that.

Except the go-silent approach guarantees years of financial pain, long after this crisis is over.

Neither approach should be acceptable. Ever. But especially now, when fundraising so urgently needs to be good!

Here’s what everyone in our sector needs to do: Cast out fear! We need fundraising heroes who act with courage right now. We need more courage right now, not less!

Here are some steps that can help you act more courageously:

  • Dramatically scale back your approval process so it only has people who know what they’re doing — two or three at most! — and each one has a specifically defined area of knowledge about it.
  • Choose action over inaction. It’s nearly always the right course.
  • At every decision point, choose the bolder, reasonable alternative.
  • Lead your leaders. They carry weight on their shoulders that often causes them to choose the way of fear. Help them be brave by being brave yourself. (And if they are unleadable, start planning your personal exit strategy.)

You will make mistakes. Everybody does. Fear doesn’t eliminate mistakes — it just adds to them.

I read somewhere that the Bible has the phrase “fear not” 365 times. I don’t know how accurate that is, but take it this way: Every day, don’t be afraid.

The book sci-fi classic Dune by Frank Herbert has a powerful litany against fear. It starts like this:

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

This is a scary time. You have worries about your health, the health of your loved ones, the economic distress that’s hitting so many, the malfeasance of some political leaders.

But act with courage.

You’ll have better outcomes for yourself, your organization, and for all of us.

Another way to combat fear is to be part of a community of people who are facing the same things you are. You can find that by joining The Fundraisingology Lab, which offers one of the best Facebook communities in the world (just ask our members). Find out how to join here. Or check out our free Facebook community, the Smart Fundraisers Forum.

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pop art man bashing head against wall with money CROPPED 123rf e1589151753257
Boards and FundraisingCoronavirus

This Nonprofit Leader Needs to Resign. Do You Have Someone Like That?

What I’m about to tell you is a true story. In fact, the story is still playing out, which is why I’ve changed some of the details to hide the identity of the players. You’ll see why pretty quickly.

A couple of weeks ago, a smart nonprofit did a COVID-19 Crisis campaign consisting of several urgent email messages.

They are not a “front line” organization working directly to help fight the health crisis or its economic fallout. They are a well-known and beloved organization. It’s likely you’ve heard of them. The challenge they face is widespread cancellations of their main programs. This has blasted a devastating hole in their revenue that threatens the viability of their program once they are past the “social distancing” phase. They were looking at wholesale layoffs of staff and other possible draconian steps just to keep the organization afloat.

That was the topic of the appeal. And they did a great job. That’s not just my opinion — their donors responded at record levels: Orders of magnitude more than they typically got from their fundraising campaigns. Enough revenue to free them from the painful budget cuts they’d been considering.

A resounding success.

But not everyone was happy.

A member of the executive team, a certain vice president, is furious. He says the crisis campaign was grossly insensitive, immoral and permanently damaged the organization’s reputation. He’s calling for resignations from the fundraising team.

I think it’s the VP who needs to resign.

But before we fire up the petition campaign to remove him, let’s take a careful and rational look at his case: Was the COVID-19 fundraising campaign wrong?

The common fear we hear about fundraising during this crisis is that it is insensitive or exploitative. That the message may reach people who have lost their jobs, taken serious hits to their investments, or lost loved ones to the virus. Or that somehow it takes unfair advantage of the emotional turmoil so many of us are in to squeeze donations out of people who otherwise wouldn’t give.

It’s quite possible that the VP even heard a complaint from someone who was offended by the campaign in some way.

Let’s ask ourselves: If the organization’s reputation were damaged, what would be the signs?

  • Extremely low response to the fundraising? That would be a reasonable sign that they’d made a mistake by fielding this campaign. But that’s not what happened. They got an outpouring of support. And they are not the only ones. Organizations all over the world have been getting record-breaking responses to their crisis fundraising.
  • A massive public backlash? That could happen. But has it? We can assume that there were complaints. Strong fundraising can stir some to complain, even in normal times. You have to put complaints in perspective: If you got thousands of people saying YES with their money (as this organization did), how many said NO with a complaint? Does one complaint have the weight of ten donations? 100? 1,000? Wouldn’t you think it should go the other way, with one donation having the weight of many complaints? After all, it costs nothing to complain, but it costs something to donate. There would have to be an awful lot of complaints before you could call it a meaningful public backlash.
  • Maybe the damage is invisible — for now. Is it possible that some of those donations were somehow scammed out of unwilling donors who will eventually wake up to the mistake and never give again in disgust? To believe that, you have to think donors are incredibly sheep-like and irrational. Which strikes me as horrendously arrogant and disrespectful of the people who know and love and support the organization. They gave of their free will. Ask them if they want the money back. I can tell you what they’ll say: “Heck no! I gave because I wanted something good to happen!”
  • Or there’s an angry silent majority they will never hear from again. Even the strongest fundraising campaign only moves a minority of people to donate. But is there any business or any other human endeavor where you just assume that everyone who says nothing is united in some negative viewpoint? It simply doesn’t happen.

I think we can safely say that no meaningful damage has been done to the organization’s reputation or future revenue. Time will tell for sure, but if this emergency is like any of the other emergencies I’ve been through with nonprofit organizations, it’s almost certain that this campaign increased the connection and engagement of their donors, who are filled with gratitude that they could help make a difference for an organization they love.

They are stronger today than before the campaign. Plus they have revenue they would not have otherwise.

I’m calling this vice president for being irrational and negative, for a toxic mixture of arrogance and ignorance about donors and human psychology in general. If I were his boss, I’d be asking for a resignation — and not just “asking,” if you know what I mean.

The unusual thing about this case is that the attack on fundraising came after the fact. Far more leaders (and board members) have been preventing fundraising from happening in the first place, for basically the same reasons.

They are just as wrong. And unlike the after-the-fact executive, they are inflicting deep, possibly unrecoverable financial damage on their organizations.

And they also should resign. Their entire job is to make their organizations strong and healthy. They are doing the exact opposite.

If your fundraising tells your donors the truth about the situation, makes it clear what giving can do about it, and appeals to the better angels of their natures, your fundraising is not insensitive, exploitative, or reputation-damaging.

In fact, if your organization is doing something that matters — whether that is directly related to the virus and its impact or not — and you are not letting your donors be your partners in important work you’re doing — that’s terribly damaging in my book.

Do you really want to show up out of the blue some months from now when the crisis is behind us, saying, Hi! Remember us? We were hiding in a hole while you went through a major crisis. But now we’re back. Let’s pretend that never happened, okay?

Your donors love to donate. They need to donate, especially in a time of crisis. You are not taking something away from them when they give to you. They get so much back that you might argue they’re getting the better deal.

I hope you and your leaders are giving these issues good and clear thought. And if your organization is helping make the world a better place in the face of this frightening situation, I hope you are including donors as empowered, heroic people who are tackling the crisis and making a difference.

That’s what we’re here to do!

This crisis raises a lot of questions for a lot of us. Want some practical and experience-based help? Schedule a free 25-minute call  with one of our Moceanic Fundraisingologists. They will give you great free advice and help you identify which Coaching+ program might be right for you. Click here to book your call.

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CoronavirusDonor Psychology

The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Donors

For the last few weeks, I’ve been asking every fundraiser I’ve talked to one strange question:  How clean are your closets right now?

The weird thing is, the majority tell me their closets are cleaner than they’ve been in years.

There’s a reason so many closets are clean right now. It’s because so many of us are seeking ways to “take control” during these uncertain times. Even straightening up your closet gives you that much-needed sense of control!

I’m not telling you this because I think you ought to go clean your closets (though I know there’s a good chance you already have).

I’m bringing it up because your donors are in the same boat as you and me.

They need to do things that help them “take control.”

And donating to your organization does exactly that for them!

That’s why fundraisers who have been fielding strong, relevant and urgent crisis fundraising campaigns are seeing record levels of giving.

It’s not because they’re amazing fundraisers (though most of them are indeed amazing fundraisers).

It’s because donors need to give.

Donors always need to give, but that need to give rises to higher levels when things are uncertain and frightening.

Remember, charitable giving releases dopamine in the brain. That’s a pleasure/reward/motivation hormone and neurotransmitter. It basically reassures you, makes you feel good, and gives you confidence and motivation (among other things). This is why charitable giving is as important to who we are and how we navigate our lives as eating and sex.

Especially during hard times.

So, if you have an opinionated board member or boss who confidently says we shouldn’t be asking people for funds right now in this time of uncertainty — that doing so is insensitive, even cruel ….

That person has it exactly wrong.

Dramatically, horribly wrong.

If you are not giving your donors the opportunity to take a little bit control by supporting your cause, you are failing them in a very real sense. Remember, they’re in this for the same reason you are: To support your cause which needs them all the time… but especially now.

I’m not too worried about your donors; if you aren’t there for them, they’ll find someone else to support.

But really — is that the way your relationship with your donors should be?

Please. If you’re not connecting with donors these days, have an adult conversation about it within your organization. See if you can bring your leaders to the important truth about fundraising:

When someone donates to you, you have not taken something from them, leaving them slightly impoverished. You have given them something of incalculable value. Most likely, they get more out of the transaction than you do!

So get busy with the fundraising. Feel good about it. Your donors will.

Struggling with leaders who just don’t get fundraising? Post your story on our free Facebook community, the Smart Fundraisers Forum. Or leave a comment below. You have friends who might be able to help!

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[VIDEO] What Fundraisers Should Do — and NOT Do — During the COVID-19 Crisis

This is a must-see video for everyone wondering what to do next during the coronavirus crisis.

Today, I speak with long-time colleague Mary Anne Plummer of Exuberance Unlimited about what fundraisers should be doing — and NOT doing:

  • DO keep raising funds.
  • DO keep in touch with donors.
  • DO get back to basics.
  • DO stay on point.


  • DON’T spend time or money on activities that don’t directly produce measurable fundraising revenue.
  • DON’T do expensive, fancy direct mail packs.
  • DON’T aim campaigns at Millennials.
  • DON’T keep changing direction.

I hope this useful and fun discussion will help you to do your best in these hard times!

Looking for help through this crisis and beyond? Check out The Fundraisingology Lab. It’s the best training on crisis response and everything else you need as a fundraiser — plus the coolest, most helpful fundraising community in the entire world! Find out how you can join today!

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Boards and FundraisingCoronavirus

VIDEO: What Your Board Should Do During the COVID-19 Crisis

Simone Joyaux knows nonprofit boards.

She travels the world to meet with boards and help them be their best.

And now, with a crisis raging that threatens the mission — even the existence — of some nonprofit organizations, boards need Simone!

So I called her up to ask a few questions.

I think you’ll love what she has to say for boards. You might want to share this video with your board.

It’s a quick 17 minutes, but it could make all the difference in the world for your organization!

Want amazing quality training to strengthen your organization? Simone’s powerful online workshop, Fundraising and Your Board: The Right Stuff, is just one of the many great resources for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Find out how you can join today!

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