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Do You Know an Idea Fairy?

Board Member Education


Transform Glitter to Gold with Free Download


Download: Fundraising Appeals


Idea Fairies
Have you ever had an idea fairy on your board? You know, someone who waves a wand at the staff, sprinkles sparkly ideas onto the staid agenda, and flies out of the room, leaving nothing but expectations.

My idea fairy — like yours, I’ll bet — was far more influenced by philanthropic hype than daily strategy.

I happened to start fundraising about the same time Oprah’s Angel Network charity was on the nightly news. My fairy said often, “Have we (I think she meant “you”) written Oprah?” Well, no I hadn’t, and I never did.

Since that time, my fundraising vocabulary has expanded, and I now understand that most real prospects have both capacity and propensity. Oprah most certainly has the capacity. Clearly, she was interested in feeding the poor so she had propensity.

However, in the scope of our appeals strategy, my time (I was the sole fundraising staff and I was responsible for marketing) and projections were focused on more realistic, if less glittery, prospects.

Great Intentions…Flawed Logic
I’ve come to believe that most idea fairies have wonderful intentions. I mean, why wouldn’t Oprah consider funding us if she’s helping somewhere?

Idea fairies are often disconnected from their shiny, impulsive recommendations. They may never have raised money in this way or know how it’s done or whether it will work with our audience, but they do know one thing for sure: It worked somewhere!

Why Education Is Needed
As a consultant, the single source of glitter-spreading I experience occurs like this:

Suddenly, a major gift conversation (naturally focused on large, multi-year, time-consuming, and restricted donations) is interrupted by an enthusiastic annual fund recommendation, described as quick, youngish, friendly, and (here’s the clincher)…a way to find new donors. (Glitter goes everywhere.)

Why should we research, connect with, and schedule major gift meetings when all we need to do is click a button and an online campaign will be launched into the blue-lit world of millions? Does it really matter that  99.7% of them have never heard of us or aren’t connected to our cause (no propensity)?

Earlier this week, I had such an experience with a client, who is sincere about fundraising and deeply devoted to her mission. The confusion, I realized, is rooted in a basic misunderstanding that fundraising is divided into a few categories with blurry lines.

Furthermore, some things that glitter are gold. Non-profit organizations need diverse funding streams, but they also need a strategy and a goal for each one!

To help, I’ve created the attached downloadable document, which isn’t perfect (feedback appreciated, but it is super easy to understand.

As non-profit leaders, we have an opportunity to respectfully educate our board and co-workers on the nuances of the non-profit world. ( The best way to do this, by the way, is to connect the appeal to time and projected gifts.)

Here’s a good litmus test for the next shiny idea shared at a board or development committee meeting: Sincerely ask, “Who is our audience for this appeal?” or “Whom do you envision will respond to this appeal?”

Good fundraisers grow appeals based on their existing donors because “we want more of them.

Today’s free download includes some appeals your organization will likely never use, and having a conversation about why some appeals won’t work helps you avoid a lot of fairy dust.

Want a professional perspective on your project? Contact Phoenicia.

Watch a sample of her work here!

Discover more simple, experience-based fundraising tips, by Clicking Here.

To share feedback on this post, email PMiracle@MiracleStrategies.com or post to my Facebook page. To get winning, donor-centric, goal-focused fundraising & marketing tips delivered directly to your inbox sign up here!