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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Is that your future calling?
Tom Ahern

September, 2011

Lately, my crystal ball is waking me up ... with unnerving predictions.



Such as....

For most of us, Facebook and other social media will settle into a small supporting role as a cultivation and "tribe-building" tool ... as well as, when occasion demands, a campaign reporting device. Yes, OMG: every so often, a fundraiser will do something spectacularly profitable with social media that will make the rest of us salivate. But most organizations (i.e., yours) will find that Facebook and the like are just easy ways to say hi to a small group of donors, prospects, and "friends." In other words, relax: this is not fundraising's "next big thing." Stick to your knitting.


Fundraisers will demand their civil right to succeed ... and second-guessing will be exposed as the evolutionary reversal it is. Ignorant bosses will either become educated (thanks to you, the fundraiser) or obsolete.
     Okay, that last part is wishful thinking. Ignorance never goes out of style, as we all know too well.
     At pretty much every workshop I give, a fundraiser ends up blurting, "I believe you, Tom! But my boss won't let me do the things you're recommending. Do you have any tips to convert him?!?"
     Here's what I think. There are two forms of ignorance: (1) "they don't know any better" ignorance; and (2) stubborn "because I said so" ignorance.
     Stubborn ignorance can't be cured. The other kind?
     Try this: "Boss, I attended this workshop. The guy said everything we're doing is pretty much wrong. He's a real international expert, too. I want to do it his way for a year and see if our results improve. OK by you?"
      The answer should be something like, "Of course!" If not, you have deeper problems.


The people with the best thank you's, welcome package, and accomplishment reporting programs will "win." And you [average charity I've encountered in the US] are probably missing at least 2 out of those 3. Your thank you is perfunctory and often stale by the time it arrives. Your welcome package doesn't exist. And your "accomplishment reporting" tends to be all about how great the organization is ... while steadfastly ignoring how great the donor is. Which is why, I betcha, you're raising just a fraction of what you really could raise.

"Local nonprofits" will evolve into their own exquisite, high-flying specialty within the fundraising industry. Of course, Kim Klein has been plowing this field productively for years. So she's the iconic star. But on the donor communications side, there's a lot more that can be done. I've seen more than one small nonprofit with a very small prospect base raise $50,000 in a few weeks with the right piece of house-written direct mail. Yes, it required a bit (about 3 hours) of training. But was it worth it? Oh, yes!

An ability to market charitable bequests successfully will become a requisite for high-achieving fundraisers.
     Most members of America's "Greatest Generation," now rapidly passing from this good earth, did not and will not leave a charitable gift in their wills, thanks in large part to our nation's notoriously lackluster skills at promoting bequests.
     Shame on us. We deprived an entire generation of eternal meaning, because we were bad at something so basic. We also deprived our organizations of amazing amounts of philanthropy, now going, going, gone.
     The next generation, Baby Boomers, is entering its bell lap. So...will America's Boomers pass without leaving much in the way of charitable bequests, as happened with their parents? That's pretty much up to America's fundraisers.
     Oh, did I mention? Marketing charitable bequests is unbelievably easy to do, requiring almost no extra time and effort. If I were a boss hiring a fundraiser, here's one topic I'd be sure to cover: "Tell me about your success to date at attracting bequests for your organization."

Visit Tom Ahern at


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