The endless tension between program staff and fundraising folks is a rarely reported yet everyday fixture of the non-profit world. Even more than Democrats and Republicans, marketers and program people seem cut from radically different swatches of human DNA.
The drama often plays out like this: Your copywriter prepares a zinger of an appeal featuring the travails of an orphaned child, or and orphaned puppy, or some other heartstring-yanking protagonist. It’s drenching with emotion, designed to get hankies and wallets out with equal speed. You read the copy and rub your hands together, secure in the knowledge that you are going to make your budget numbers this month.
And then the letter comes back from internal review. A once simple and stirring parable about an orphan child or puppy is now an impenetrable wall of bullet points, statistics, caveats and venomous marginal comments complaining about the oversimplification and emotionalization of your organization’s mission. All those dollar signs you once saw evaporate before your eyes.
If you haven’t experienced this, you are not a fundraiser.
This is one of the reasons why fundraisers hate their jobs.
Can This Chasm be Crossed?
The truth is we need each other.
Program people are idealists – they work toward the world we wish we had.
Fundraisers are realists – they work with the world we inhabit.
Every fundraiser has a number on his or head. It’s their monthly fundraising goal. Make budget or die. Make budget or the program people don’t get paid. Success means engaging emotions. Success means telling a simple story that cuts through the clutter. Success means resorting to what program people call “poverty porn.” It’s not necessarily what we like or want or prefer – it’s just what works.
We all want to live in the better world program folks are helping to achieve. That’s why we do what we do. But if the idealists want to be paid, they need to let the realists do their jobs.