Mark Phillips from UK fundraising agency Bluefrog put this charming cartoon up recently.
I’m a fundraising Neanderthal, and I’m not ashamed at all about it. I’m always hungry for more donors because I know that charities need to grow bigger for lots of very good reasons.
My feet are very good at chasing after new donors because I know that many of my current donors are going to stop giving even if I have the best retention program in the world. There is no such thing as 0% attrition. And I know that I need to replace those donors just to stay the same size next year and I need to add even more new donors if I want to grow and get bigger.
My ears work just fine and I can hear what donors say to me. But I also have eyes, and I can observe how donors actually behave. What donors say, and what they actually do, are often two totally different things. So I use both senses, not just one.
My eyes are very good at finding donors who are likely to say yes. I’ve observed over many years that a donor who gave last month is more likely to give again than a donor who gave last year. I can see that a donor who has given twice is more likely to give again than a donor who has only given once. And I know that a donor who gave $100 is worth more of my time and effort than a donor who gave $10.
My brain is not underdeveloped at all. In fact, Neanderthal brains are actually bigger. And I can tell when I’m being told nonesense — like when people say that fundraising is not really about money. Or when I’m told that you can raise more money by asking less often. Or when I’m told that if I “love” my donor, they will just magically start donating more money. I’m smart enough not to take slogans like that on face value and to recognise them as the silly rhetoric they really are.
And my hands are well trained at both grabbing and keeping donors. I know how to maximise income from fundraising programs so they raise the most possible money in the shortest amount of time and for the longest period of time with the lowest investment and risk.
And that is what donors expect a good fundraiser to do. At the end of the day, when you raise money for a cause, it is to help your beneficiaries. Ask any donor who you should care about more, them or your beneficiaries, they will choose the beneficiaries as well. Donors don’t usually need our help, it’s the other way around and they know that too.
Neanderthal fundraising is not backward or primitive. It’s smart fundraising. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And when it is ridiculed like in this cartoon, it makes the critic look more stupider than the Neanderthal. Oink.