“Monkey See, Monkey Do” Fundraising:

E-Marketing Is Not the Answer

If you really think you can run a planned giving program on autopilot with outsourced help that supplies electronic tools online such as tax reference libraries for prospects and financial advisors, articles on gift laws, automated email blasts, complicated calculators, etc., this article is for you.

One of the scariest things I see is that many fundraisers are entirely, foolishly depending on this stuff (which no one reads) and on the Internet for marketing, and worse, simultaneously abandoning direct mail and other print media for outreach to new donors and prospects.  It is terrifyingly stupid, ugly, lazy, and cheap.

Now, before you turn a deaf ear to my advice, understand that I am in the e-marketing business, too.  So read on with an open mind.

If you were going to follow a leader who is “with it” and savvy about the Internet, who would you choose? Hard to beat Google. If anybody can safely rely on Internet marketing, it would be Google.  Right?

Sorry.  Wrong. Even the company that dominates online advertising does not rely on online advertising, and instead consistently uses sophisticated direct mail techniques to get its message across to new customers.

And you think you’re going to attract planned giving prospects with e-marketing reference libraries on laws pertaining to planned gifts?  Do you think planned giving is Entertainment Weekly where people are dying to read the next issue?

Okay, you say, “My prospects are young and all ‘with it’ and they are always facebooking and tweeting and emailing and are on top of it.”

Correct.  That’s all they are doing.

Let me hand you a quote from a recent issue of Target Magazine, reporting on one marketer’s plan: “Its designers figured the campaign would target a younger, more web-savvy audience that they didn’t think would be moved by paper materials. But many marketers have found that to be a flawed assumption, and studies earlier this year by ICOM and Experian showed that young adults do, in fact, respond better to print.”


The non-profit marketer mentioned in the story was World Vision Micro, and it hastily added print marketing to the campaign to wrest victory from failure.

Here’s what Target editor Thorin McGee said about this:

“World Vision Micro found, as many have during the Internet era, that changing with the times is seldom as important as looking critically at the evidence and making the decisions it shows you have to make. Whether that means doing something new on social media or putting reps back on the old-fashioned telephone.

I agree.

What is scariest to me is the huge number of fundraisers operating absent or in dire conflict with fact due to bad advice: failing to collect or ignoring evidence, making marketing decisions based on “monkey see, monkey do,” fads, peer pressure, and/or hype, not hard factual information. Frankly, I’m amused (perhaps ashamed) by so many fundraisers running around like headless chickens in this fashion or following the Pied Piper to their demise.

And I so appreciate the rare few (many of them my clients, large and small) who recognize facts and do not abandon their simple, common sense reliable marketing modalities that are working well for them, day in and day out.


Viken, only you can get away with such bold, even rash, sarcasm! But you
speak the truth.

Personally, I know you are a very generous, kind, and giving person – generous with your insights and kind with the time you devote to helping us succeed.

Please continue doing your good work.

Thank you for your intended compliment. But PLEASE, do not advertise the secret that I am kind and generous. I like to be seen as an irritant, annoyer, offender, uncomfortable cattle prod, inconvenient truth teller, provocateur. Getting under people’s skin seen as my finest skill. So let’s not publicize that good and generous giving stuff. I have an image to protect and you’re damaging the brand.

I always do my best to stay in the heads of my clients and prospects everyday as I find it the best way to invest in them. It is important to always be in the conversations that go on in their minds. And I hope you do the same as you will have more and happier donors.

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