I do believe that my first-ever blog crush was on Jeff Brooks, when he was writing Donor Power Blog.  The wit, the pith, the worldly wisdom, oh my. Jeff is currently writing Future Fundraising Now, and he still puts it all out there (the good, the bad, and the ugly in fundraising, especially in direct mail) with extreme candor and humor. His Stupid Nonprofit Ads series is a perennial favorite.

So I was excited when Jeff said he’d written a post that he thought was perfect for my blog . . . The Fundraising Rock Band.  Y’all know I love a great metaphor!  Hit it, Jeff!


Guest Post by Jeff Brooks, Future Fundraising Now

Jeff Brooks

Fundraising is a lot like a rock band. A good program, like a good band, needs to get the right players doing the right things. Here’s how it might play out:

Drums: Production

Whether you’re raising funds through direct mail, online, or any other medium, the drums of your fundraising band are the production: Getting it produced, printed and mailed right.

Good production is the solid beat and unerring back-beat (the basics are correct), just the right amount of fill (fancy when that’s needed), and very, very few drum solos (doesn’t call attention to itself). Not many people pay much attention to the drums, but when it’s wrong, boy does the music suffer!

There isn’t that much glamour in the back of the band, but if you don’t get it right, everything else falls apart.

Bass: The data

Data bridges the gap between what you do and how you tell others about it in the fundraising band. As with the drums, people don’t often focus on the bass, but if it isn’t there, your rock just doesn’t roll.

Using the data properly will anchor the music of your cause to the rhythm of your production. You’ll be able to communicate clearly to the right people about the right things at the right times.

Make sure your bass player has it together, both rhythmically (getting the details right) and harmonically (actually works with your messaging and mission).

Guitar: Your mission

The guitar is what makes rock sound like rock, sometimes laying down a bed of chords, sometimes letting go with a solo. Either way, it’s the part of you that people care about.

Your mission is why you exist, and it’s why people give. A murky, ill-described, or just-plain boring mission will make your band sound like the guitar is too loud, too soft, out of tune, or clunky.

Lead singer: Your voice

The lead singer is the signature of the band. The sound people really hear. The person who gets the blame when things go wrong.

It’s the glam position, but it can be lonely up there. If you’re out of tune, have poor tone, or are soulless — everyone will notice. The wrong voice can shoot down what’s otherwise a totally shredding band.

Hot chick with a tambourine: Your graphic standards

Not every band has a tambourine chick, and frankly, most bands would be better off without her. Sometimes she’s an asset. Other times she’s a liability — like when she can’t stick with the rhythm. A lot of the time, she’s just irrelevant eye-candy. If your tambourine chick isn’t pulling her weight with the band, let her go.


There are many other possible additions to a great band: keyboard, sax, brass, cowbell — heck, I once played in a band that had a didgeridoo. These are things that are uniquely you, that you sound and look different from the other bands.

They’re also the things that may be holding back the band. Sometimes they’re just too eccentric, maybe a relic of your past or an old way of thinking that doesn’t work the way it used to. Don’t fire your didge player just yet. But make sure he’s fitting in with the sound.

Jeff Brooks, creative director at TrueSense Marketing, has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 20 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. In addition to writing his blog, Future Fundraising Now, he co-hosts (along with Steven Screen) a podcast called Fundraising Is Beautiful, and writes a monthly column for FundRaising Success magazine. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jeff.brooks [at] truesense [dot] com.

Published On: September 7, 2011|Categories: Fundraising|