Have fundraising practices been conditioned on low expectations?

My conversation today with Kevin reminded me of all the dangerous assumptions that we sometimes make about how fundraising really works and of the practices that often compel us to think about what we do. After 33 years of experience leading development programs for both local and international organizations. Kevin's not afraid to challenge people’s thinking when it comes to supporting good causes. For example, how many of our challenges originate from the belief that the only way to raise more money is to accumulate more donors? And, once donor acquisition is running amok, do hoards of $20-40 gifts lead one to assume that these gifts accurately reflect the capability of their donors? Do contemporary fundraising practices convince us that our donors are broke and therefore perpetuate our low expectations?

Kevin insists that we need to treat all our donors like we would a major donor. He shared with me his experience of helping an organization go from from 14 to 40 major gifts officers after they came to the realization that they had built their new donor acquisition effort on the wrong assumptions. When conditioned on low expectations, these programs have a tendency to create an enormous volume of activity that makes it nearly impossible to discern a good signal from all the noise. Without being able to effectively change the nature of the relationship, these programs quickly evolve into an unhealthy dependency by keeping margins low and attrition high.

As always, we are grateful to our friends at CueBack for sponsoring The Fundraising Talent Podcast. We are gearing up for a big fall and of you’d like to be a part of the line-up, reach out and let’s hear what you’ve got to say. 


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