Most Senior Fundraisers Don’t Need Training; They Need Treatment

You’re always outnumbered. No matter how much fundraising experience and philanthropic wisdom you acquire, you’re always surrounded by completely inexperienced people who assume they know better, that they should point out the obvious to you, or insist that they know someone at another place is raising much more than you and doing so armed only with magic beans.

So, I see no reason to offer training to senior fundraisers anymore. Instead I’m thinking of providing a treatment center. The first phase of that treatment would consist of de-gaslighting them, of reassuring them that what their experience taught them is real, not the unreality being visited on them by so many inexperienced around them.

This treatment phase would consist of offering colorfully umbrellaed drinks, applying warm compresses, and providing foot rubs while saying, in the most soothing tones possible:

It’s not you, it’s not you.
It’s not true what they say, you know it’s not true.
Trust what you know to be true.

When they come to believe this once again, we’ll release them on their own recognizance.

If they relapse, we’ll welcome them back and apply the same treatment again and as often as we need to.

Therapy for Frazzled Fundraisers: De-Gaslighting
  • You’re not crazy, what you’re being asked to do is.
  • Those places that they say are raising more than you have advantages you don’t.
  • Some of those places posting greater campaign results are using very different gift accounting methods, some quite creative.
  • That silver-tongued devil that they want you to be or to hire couldn’t hold a candle to your authentic self or inspire greater donor regard.
  • No, Bill, Oprah, McKenzie (fill in your favorite billionaire) don’t take calls from fundraisers, any fundraiser, ever, really, never.
  • No, no one ever talked a donor into one million in a single sitting, much less repeatedly.
  • The more successful board members have been in other fields, the more likely they are to come up with cockamamie fundraising ideas.
  • The board member least capable of or experienced with fundraising will lodge the sternest criticism.
  • The boss imposing the most onerous metrics is the least likely to make a donor call.


Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 

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2 months ago

Thank you! From a persevering MGO who had “been there” and “done that” for the past 20 years. Cheers!

2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

You are not alone, Maria.

2 months ago

Good article

2 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Thanks Jonathan!

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