Monthly Archives: August 2009

It’s about what works, not what should work

Jeff Brooks from the Donor Power Blog recently covered how “Emotional messaging works; rational messaging hurts” in fundraising (from a post on the Neuromarketing blog titled Emotional Ads Work Best).

Here’s the thing. People think rational should work. The healthcare debate should be decided on a rational weighing of the plans. A fundraising appeal should be based on a rational evaluation of which nonprofit best achieves the donors’ ends.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Emotional arguments move people–even highly-educated, ivory-tower, college professors and hard-nosed, data-driven corporate leaders.

Use emotion in your community organizing. Use what works.

Why leadership is so hard

The scarecest resource in nonprofits is leadership.

The scarecest resource in nonprofits is leadership.

What’s the scarcest resource for a nonprofit?



The scarcest resource is leadership.

Good leadership can make the most out of scarce time and can raise money, but no amount of money or time can create good leadership (the travails of the Red Cross show that).

Seth Godin explains part of the reason why, “Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.”

Seth’s post points out that leadership takes courage. It also takes skill.

Some people who  have the skill to lead lack the courage. Some people who have the courage don’t have the skill.

As a community organizer, part of your job is to show leadership, to find the courage and develop the skills to be a good leader.

It’s also your job to find, recruit, and support other leaders. Bolster their courage. Refine their skills.

We need more leaders. Help create them.

Do you have “expert-itis”?

Just because you know everything about a topic doesnt mean the person your talking to wants to hear it.

Just because you know everything about a topic doesn't mean the person your talking to wants to hear it.

Do you know your issue inside-and-out?

Can you talk about all the intricacies of your campaign plan and all the political tradeoffs it will take to win?

Have you felt the need to explain the whole history, significance, and vision of your organization to people who don’t know about it?

You may have expert-itis.

Definition: Expert-itis is a condition in which someone has deep knowledge of their topic area but does not have a filter to regulate how much of that information their audience needs.

Expert-itis can impede social interactions and can inhibit effective community organizing and fundraising efforts.

Treatment: Since expert knowledge is a good thing, treatment of expert-itis focuses on developing the filters necessary to know when to stop talking. Treatments include:

  • Asking: Since a sufferer of expert-itis has difficulty understanding what is too much information for a non-expert, it is important that patients develop the skill to ask, “should I keep going,” or “what do you need to know about this?”
  • Seeking Help: You may not be able to overcome expert-itis on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask a trusted friend or co-worker to let you know when you’ve said too much. Please not, this person must not also have expert-itis in the same field as you, though expert-itis in a different field is acceptable. For example, a climate change expert and a craft brew expert could support each other in knowing when to stop talking about carbon emissions targets or carbonation levels in stouts versus pale ales.

You don’t have to let expert-itis ruin your social life or your organizing efforts.