Top 3 ways to determine whether or not a so-called expert is worth listening to

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

Most people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
On social media you’ll find a lot of people posting and making comments on posts. At conferences you’ll hear speakers babble on about stuff. And, in publications, you’ll read articles that no one questions prior to publication.
Plenty of these authors and speakers know what they are talking about. Too many don’t.
For better or worse, the world today allows anyone to have a voice whether their comments and ideas work or not.
Unfortunately, I’ve found that speakerships get filled because those seeking speakers rush the process. Too often they fail to properly vet a speaker. Instead, they opt for the easiest path to fill a slot.
Here’s the result: I remember hearing a speaker at a roundtable talk about how she got the open rates for her mass emails (spam) to increase. After the ‘oohs and ahs’ at the table subsided, I asked her why she cared about open rates so much. After all, email effectiveness should be judged by results at the back end of the process— outcomes such as how many people converted (gave money, watched the video, or downloaded the information, etc.) not how many supposedly opened an email. And besides, many browsers and smartphones automatically open emails anyway. So why even consider open rates at all?
When she had no answers to my questions, I got up and walked away. Rude? Perhaps. But I just couldn’t waste another minute listening and I didn’t want anyone to think my attendance gave credence to her misdirections. And besides, I felt it was rude for her to spew misinformation. I wasn’t going to stand for it!
Another example.
Last week, I heard an interview on a podcast aimed at entrepreneurs like me. The person being interviewed (a supposedly super-successful business consultant) talked and talked about a lot of things I found interesting. So I figured I’d reach out to him so I could possibly hire him to help me and MarketSmart. First I emailed him using the email mentioned on the podcast. When that didn’t work, I called, sent a LinkedIn message and sent a direct Tweet. But he never responded. Hmmmm? I guess he was good at preaching but not so good at practicing what he preached.
I’m fed up.
Sometimes I see comments on my posts (usually disagreements) that make no sense. They aren’t backed by evidence, science or experience. They are guesses and I don’t want my followers falling into the trap of thinking they know what they’re talking about when they don’t.
So, rather than calling them out, I figured I’d simply write this post today to (1) warn you that the comments on my posts are sometimes misleading or downright incorrect and (2) to help you determine whether or not someone is worth listening to.
Consider doing the following before taking advice from charlatans spewing misinformation and falsehoods in the echo-chambers of fundraising ignorance:

  1. Look at their background and experience. Have they actually done anything worthwhile?
  2. Examine their tenure at each job. Someone with 8 months here, 14 months there and another 6 months now consulting is probably not really an expert.
  3. Test them out. See if they can do the basics. Send an email. How long until they respond? Are they accessible? I love it when people email me or especially when they direct message me on LinkedIn (InMail). I respond. Do they? If they can’t do the basics, they’ll surely fail at the rest.


Related Post:

>>Some people find me abrasive. Here’s why.

18 responses to “Top 3 ways to determine whether or not a so-called expert is worth listening to”

  1. Ben Bisbee says:

    Yes! This! So much this! Anymore it’s like “Do you have an opinion? You’re an expert!” I always really appreciate your truthful, transparent voice cutting down the middle of the garbage, Greg.

  2. Sr. Mary Brigid says:

    Oh my goodness….I’m glad SOMEBODY has finally said this. Thank you, Greg. There is so much tripe and garbage out there, and it’s so hard to wade through it all to find solid advice. You now have me listening more attentively, Greg, thank you.

  3. Zach Shefska says:

    Greg, you might get a kick out of my intro to this blog post:

  4. Kelley R.J. Tetzlaff says:

    Excellent comments Greg and right on the money! Thanks for you honesty and opening and willingness to put this out there. Keep up the good work.
    Kelley T.

  5. Greg, I have just one question: What do you really think? 🙂
    The problem in the nonprofit sector is NOT that there is too little information. Instead, the problem is that there is too much. Sadly, many fundraising professionals, particularly those relatively new to the field, do not have the skills or the time to sift through it all to find the good stuff. It’s an old story.
    For example, in the early 1980s, I attended a major fundraising conference. One of the keynote speakers told the audience that phone fundraising would be dead within five years. Well, as a pioneering phone fundraising service provider, I knew this was ridiculous. But, the rest of the audience accepted the prediction though not one shred of evidence or justification was provided. Guess what? Phone fundraising has evolved and remains alive and well in 2018!
    Thank you for your post shining a light on this important issue. And thank you for being an expert that the sector most certainly can trust.

  6. Ligia says:

    Yes, a million times, YES!

  7. I am so glad you wrote this and articulated it so well. I have been asking this forever. Everybody’s an expert….not. It just kills me that so many people do oooh and aahhh them like it’s the good word or something. I keep sharing my head and saying is it me?
    Glad you walked out on that speaker. I’m sure some also found her questionable and you helped them that day I’m sure by validating what they were feeling.
    Thank you!

  8. You are so correct, Gregory!
    In addition to the examples you cited, one of my pet peeves are the numbers of fundraising and nonprofit “consultants” that have never been an employee of a nonprofit. When hiring a consultant or sizing up “an expert,” this is the first question I ask them.

  9. Nancy Brown says:

    We are well past the time of “what worked for me will work for you,” and well into the time of data, research, testing, and re-testing. I am disheartened when I see the same people positioned as “experts” who have not updated their research or been back in the field for years. Thank you for the thoughts.

  10. Sandra says:

    Hi Greg, I have been reading your blogs for months now. Why? I like your non-sense approach. Also, I think you are a good writer. Also, I secretly genuinely want to be more like you…
    A question: You wrote “Have they actually done anything worthwhile?” – what “markers” should we look for?
    Here’s what prompted my question.
    1. I often go to presentations by experts who raise tons of money in hospitals and universities. They have all the resources in the world. They are looked up too by other fundraisers. And then there fundraisers like me who are not big fans of “big shops” but are more attracted to social justice causes that tend to be more grassroots who year over year grow major giving significantly and have the trust of so many donors. Yet, we are not considered experts enough to speak at a conference etc because we don’t come from “big shops” (although I must say our $100K are just as big as $1M for other shops… and he donors equally happy and engage).

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