Have you ever wondered why people don’t talk about certain things in fundraising?

Are you scratching your head, wondering what to do about your lack of fundraising staff despite your best efforts?

Or are you wondering what your fundraisers are really thinking?

Here’s some truth for you.

As Sophia Treyger reminded me recently, in Clarissa Pinkola D’Estes book, Women who run with the wolves : “Wild woman as defined by Dr. Estés is a woman in her integrity who does not suppress her true nature whether it be wild, wise, quiet, contemplative, creative, loud, etc.”

She asks, “Am I showing who I am moment to moment?

In the spirit of being wild, truly wild, and showing you the dark side of fundraising, if shit at your nonprofit is going south, here’s what your fundraiser is really thinking.


1.  We’re not all extroverts. Do you feel like being in fundraising makes you suppress your true nature? Do you ever think, “well, I’d like to do less with donors, and focus more on grantwriting and appeal letters, but I have to grit my teeth and go out to that networking meeting?” You’re not alone. A lot of us want to do ONE side of fundraising and not the other. And that is totally okay. You’re probably more of a specialist than a generalist. Maybe even an introverted specialist.


2.  A fundraising job is harder than a job working at a big corporation in marketing or sales. Mainly because there are far fewer resources, much higher expectations, and you have a much smaller team, and less organization, tech, databases, ad spend money, etc. So when people look down their nose at your nonprofit job experience on a resume, they should really respect it and look at you as someone who can make do with less.


3. UFOs? Sure. “Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?” -Janine

Ah, if there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.” -Winston from Ghostbusters

We don’t all believe in the mission enough to want to make peanuts for the rest of our lives. But we will take a job that is beneath us to get a paycheck, and pretend to believe in the mission. Then get another job as soon as we can. Yeah, I said it. If you’re not providing a decent wage for your fundraiser, they are probably looking for another job right now.


4.  We can tell if you view us as a disposable fundraiser. We look for the little clues, like being the 3rd or 4th fundraiser in as many years. We see if we are getting paid less than other people. We see if you make the fundraising budget without out input. We see if you want us to take the fall for board members not wanting to fundraise. We see if you take credit for our work. We see how you talk about fundraising, and if you don’t like it and want us to take care of all of it. We see you demanding an exact accounting of our time, and a list of our contacts. If you don’t like fundraising, try to like one part of it, and give credit where it’s due. And that means. . .


5. If we are disrespected, we will sabotage you until we leave, and sometimes only after we leave. We might simply do the bare minimum at our jobs. We might steal office supplies, or have deliberately bad record-keeping. Because you did not respect us as people. So if there’s no grant files for you to work with when you come into a new fundraising job, this can be why. If the previous person is not available for you to learn from, watch out.  So you might want to ask yourself, how can I respect and appreciate my employees more?


6.  The coffee talk is in the toilet at a lot of nonprofits. We often only talk about what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. That’s because you focus only on what we’re doing wrong, instead of what we’re doing right. You yell at us when we don’t meet arbitrary fundraising goals that you’ve set.  You have no system for celebrating small wins with program staff or fundraising staff and this contributes to a toxic workplace culture. You can turn this around by starting to celebrate small wins.


7.  Each year our targets get higher and our budget doesn’t increase.  If we even have a budget. If we need an admin person, a fundraiser with a different skillset, even a better donor database, there’s not a lot of people to advocate for our program. Sometimes it’s just us. If you increase targets, you need to invest in fundraising more. This is part of a culture of philanthropy. But a lot of leaders don’t understand this.


8. The nonprofit silo is perpetuated by you. You, nonprofit leader, could change this. You could allow us to talk with the board, or have staff meetings where we do icebreakers. we could even have an internal staff newsletter, something light and funny. We could have coffee with program staff. We could have trainings about a culture of philanthropy so that everyone would help with fundraising.  We are not fundraising machines. We are real humans with a home life and a need to befriend our coworkers. You can help us do this.


9. We know that if we try to stick our necks out to change the status quo, our head might get cut off. This happened recently to a nonprofit friend of mine. She was brand new in her job, working late, doing the best she could, and knowing that the systems needed to change. She was vocal about advocating for this change in this or that fundraising process. And then, right before the end of her trial period, she got let go with absolutely no warning. It was devastating for her. So sometimes we’re dejected and demotivated by your workplace culture, with the “we’ve always done things this way” attitude. And the light goes out of our eyes. And we start looking for other jobs.


10. We dream about getting a better paycheck outside of the sector. Because sometimes it’s too hard to fight the internal culture. Sometimes it’s too hard to fight nonprofit culture as a whole when we want to get paid what we deserve. And we know that nonprofits don’t have the market cornered on “making a difference.”

This is why a few of my former fundraising friends have sought and gotten jobs outside of the nonprofit fundraising world. And they are happy there.

So if your fundraiser isn’t performing as well as you want them to, ask yourself, am I doing everything I can to help them succeed and address the problems listed above?

If you want to find good ways to talk to people and motivate them, try these ideas.

Do you have something else that we should talk about more in fundraising, and don’t? Leave a comment!