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Jeff Brooks’ top three tips for challenging poor leadership

- May 28 2018

Jeff Brooks’ top three tips for challenging poor leadership 

Jeff Brooks needs no introduction. But we’re going to give him one anyway. One of the highlights of last year’s Summer School, this fundraising-ologist has been helping nonprofits connect with their donors for over 30 years.

This July, Jeff will be taking on Stupid Nonprofit Ads as a springboard to improve our industry’s creativity and reach more people who want to support our causes. 

But as he points out, we can only do that when we have good leadership in our sector. So how do we get that? Well, one tip is to come along to Summer School this July. Read on to find out more…

Q1. What big changes or challenges do you see coming down the track for fundraising?

It's not new, but I think our biggest challenge is poor leadership. Bosses and boards who just don't get it, and seem impervious to knowledge. So many of them seem to think fundraising is just making shit up with no expertise or prior experience. They won't let professionals do their jobs. It's been a problem for a long time, but it matters more now because we face extreme changes in demographics, psychographics, media use, plus pressures from outside forces. Government, press and others used to support charity; now they are often opposed to both what charities do and the very fact that they raise money! We need to be on top of our game, but too many of us are handcuffed, blindfolded, and being berated by ignorant leaders for trying to get it right.

Bad leadership directly leads to the second biggest threat, which is rampant turnover of fundraising staff all over the sector. 

Q2. How do you think fundraisers can best prepare or adapt for those changes?

It would be satisfying to say we should gather in the night with torches and pitchforks, storm the castle, and haul the bad leaders to the dungeons. But that won't happen. We are too nice (thankfully).  And it wouldn't be a solution anyway.

The solution is for each of us to get as educated, informed, and experienced as possible. To be the experts the sector needs. Read every book. Attend Summer School in Dublin. Find other every training, coaching, mentoring, and other support you can.

Then follow this plan:

  1. Lead your leaders. Fight them like a wildcat (in a nice way, of course) to get them thinking right.
  2. If they prove unleadable after you've truly tried, you must leave that organisation and go where you can make a difference. Unfortunately, badly led organisations need to shrivel and die as soon as possible.
  3. Stay in the sector, because if you stick with it you will eventually replace the current generation of leaders. That's when the real change will happen!

Q3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about fundraising?

It's about donors. Not about us. Every new lesson I learn is an extension of that one.

Q4. What has got you excited about coming to Summer School this July? 

1. I'm nervously excited about my session, "Stupid Nonprofit Ads." I've been blogging about that for years, but have never presented it in public. I’m nervous because it's a bit mean to call people's hard (?) work stupid. But excited because it's a powerful springboard into understanding what we really should be doing to reach and motivate people to support our causes. I hope I don't get too many shoes thrown at me during the session!

2. I loved Summer School last year. Such great people there.  My tribe.