KRS-ONE was on to something back in 1999 when he opened his verse on D.I.T.C.’s Drop it Heavy with:

I’d rather have a hundred-thousand true heads by me.
Than one million of your fake fanatics behind me.

Yes, knowledge does reign supreme [my hip hop jokes game is craaazy eh]…

In 2008 Kevin Kelly wrote his internet acclaimed article  “1000 True Fans”. Feel free to skip the rest of this post and go read that if you haven’t yet. Here’s the link again – “1000 True Fans”.

We know that the Pareto Principle certainly applies to fundraising, according to the AFP 2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Report – it can actually be a bit stronger in our sector, as high as 88/12 [or even 76% of gifts coming from 3% of donors].  Again, another opportunity for us to identify the correct prospects and amplify our narratives -because our retention rates clearly indicate that we aren’t doing the best job:

So why is this post titled “Make Sure 20% of Your Donor Hate You”. Because all the cool kids are doing clickbait articles! It’s because as I continue to harp on the fact that we need to better amplify our narratives and cultivate the joy of giving, there’s a hard fact many fundraisers need to acknowledge [and leverage], as succinctly put by Seth Godin:

Two things are always not true:

Everyone likes this.
No one likes this.


If you try to please everyone, the few you don’t delight will either ruin your day or ruin your sense of what sort of product you should make.

And if you believe the critic who insists that no one is going to like what you made, you will walk away from a useful niche.

Of course theoretically we’d love it if everyone supported our organization, the joy that would flow through the halls as we finally dismantly our direct marketing premium mailings, stop pulling our hair our planning events, and simply run off of the goodwill as every human being across the planet self-selects to discover and support our organization, and then leaves us a legacy gift, with no need for a donor relations inbox either. Oh! Oh! And we could also have all salary budgets eliminated as our organizations are completely volunteer run! A 0% cost of fundraising! We’ve reached Valhalla!

But donors don’t really want that. They want Jello Salad instead.

Your cause isn’t for everybody. And you want it that way. Your job is to cultivate the joy of giving through the alignment of your organization’s mission and your selected donors’ values, worldviews, and priorities. You want people who really give a shit about what you give a shit about. You want champions for your cause. You don’t want facebook likes. You want to be able to delight 1000 true Jello Salad fans first with the care of Jiro dreaming of Sushi, before you even consider letting anyone have a taste test. Because what happens when you look to scale before you have your foundations in place? You fall victim to the captivating illusion of presenting statistics rather than personal stories. Your thank you letters become CEO form letters with low res lasered signatures rather than a handwritten note from the mother who’s child is alive because of your donor. Your donor retention rates follow the same trajectory that we saw above.

If you are trying to have your cause speak to everyone – you will be speaking to no one. If your cause is truly worthwhile we can’t afford for you to sanitize it for the masses.

Don’t worry if 20% of your donors hate you – embrace it, identify them and break it off cordially. They aren’t who you want to lead to where it is your champions are going. It’s not you, it’s them.

Now serve your weekly jello salad. You disgust me. But I’m not your target market.

May you continue to cultivate the six delicious flavours of the joy of giving


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