Stomp Out Should

Fundraisers, despite our commitment to mission and doing good, tend to be a pretty crass bunch.  Our eyes are fills with dollar signs, and we tend to look at people as a means to an end rather than the end itself. Worse than that, however, is the sense that too many directors of development have that someone or some organization “should” make a gift.  Most egregious is when that “should” morphs into “will” (as in he/she WILL make this gift) without any proof of concept.

Let’s be clear—gifts, once you turn about 10 years old, cease to be something you should receive.  Gifts are things that are freely given by someone for a purpose that has meaning to them.

Yes, yes.  You may get a gift for a purpose dear to you (your birthday, for example, or a holiday) but trust me, rarely does someone give a gift without it providing him or her with some sort of benefit.  My husband, for example, swears he gets pleasure from giving me things.  Whatever the truth, he clearly derives something beneficial from his gift giving.  Which brings up the truth that sometimes you get a gift, and nice as the getting feels, what you’ve gotten isn’t at all what you wanted or need.

So, if a gift is to bring value to both giver and receiver, it will be most successful when there is clarity on both sides of what those values are.

That means knowing what is important to the donor (as opposed to deciding what should be important to him or her).  For many nonprofits, this would be a whole new way of thinking about things.  And that would be a very good thing.

Another good thing would be for the nonprofit to get a handle on what their needs are.  Too often, we don’t understand that.  We know what we want, what we lack.  What have notions of the activities we want to implement or the thinks we think we should be doing.  But we too infrequently think in terms of outcomes or how those outcomes will affect our communities.

Getting to the heart of what needs to be done, who will be part of the process and solution, how it will all be accomplished starts with one very simple step:  Stomp out the shoulds that have dictating the way you approach your work.  Replace that word with “could” or “would” or even “might.”  Then, think strategically about the steps that you will have to take to turn those iffy words into a positive and solid yes.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit and educational organizations helping them to get more prospects saying “yes, we will become donors!”  Learn more at