"Tuesdays with Terry #18" - April 2013

Help stamp out BWD and TAB . . . Fundraising's dreaded diseases.

In a lighthearted way, there are two serious maladies that occur in life and specifically in fundraising.
The first is BWD . . . the “But We’re Different” syndrome; and the second is TAB which stands for “Times are Bad!”

BWD occurs regularly within all types of organizations.  For example, in a church’ “that might well work for the Catholics (or Baptists or Methodists or whomever), but it would never work here, We’re different.  Or in a school:  that’s fine for a private school, but we’re different!  Or perhaps for a human services agency:  “of course that works for culture institutions 
 . . . but we’re different.”
BWD occurs globally as well.  “It’s all very well to quote American statistics all the time, but we’re different in this country.”  Or. “of course, that works in America (or Britain or Canada or Australia), because they’re more (and use your own favorite word here) . . . generous/ wealthy/sympathetic/sophisticated/gullible/community-minded.”
The BWD disease has possibly been responsible for more fundraising failures that any other reason. It causes intelligent, caring people to reject basic fundraising principles that have proven successful all over the world for decades.  It is also used as a reason to bend (or break) fundraising rules and sadly, it is sometimes used as an excuse or a reason to actually avoid working and giving.
And are we DIFFERENT?  Not in any way that justifies any kind of radical change in fundraising principles and practices.  Philanthropy and fundraising have been in existence for thousands of years and some present day methods have been practiced for more than a century – only updated and refined to cater for modern times.
So the fact is that, under the skin we are not very different at all from our fellows in other parts of the world; perhaps it is time to bury the “But We’re Different” malady once and for all, before it does more harm to worthy causes and creates fundraising failures that should have been successes.
The second of fundraising’s most deadly diseases is “Times are Bad! ”  TAB never lurks far beneath the surface in most countries and organizations – but it threatens to grow to epidemic proportions in economic downturns.  It can be detected in statements like “no one has any money right now” or “why don’t we shelve this whole thing until the economy improves next year?”
Like its sister syndrome BWD, it’s a seemingly logical excuse for not becoming involved and for not giving.  Fundraising efforts that are shelved or postponed “until things get better” almost never happen.  The only reason for delaying a fundraising effort or campaign is that the needs are not that serious and the money is not required right now.   And if your needs are not real and not urgent, perhaps you shouldn’t have been planning to raise money in the first place.

In a recent speech, one University president summed up the “Times are Bad” syndrome perfectly . . . “There is never a good time to do a major campaign.  Either the economy is bad, unemployment is too high, inflation is too high, or all of your prospective donors are in the midst of (or just completed) another campaign for some other charity.  Thus, they don’t have any money to give to your organization.  And so you decide, normally in a meeting of the board of trustees, that it’s just not a good time and that we ought to wait until better circumstances to raise money.  The simple fact of the matter is that, if there is a genuine and pressing need, now is the right time to conduct a fundraising campaign, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.”
If your organization is suffering from BWD or TAB, call us.  We can help find the cure.


Orginially published January 1991