mythbustersWhen a dear friend of our family moved into senior housing, we had to get everything out of her house. But her new apartment was full long before the house was empty. With all the additional stuff on the lawn, it felt like we were starring on an episode of the TV show Clean Sweep.

In order to save time, I rented a dumpster. Rather than the cute little green one I envisioned, a huge construction-sized monster dumpster showed up in her yard. And it was a good thing, too! This woman was a bargain hunter and a pack rat. We threw out enough “seen on TV” gizmos and gadgets to fill up about half of the dumpster.

Only once did she get really upset—when I threw out a kitty litter bucket that actually contained an expensive compost starter. The thought struck me, if she hadn’t spent so much money on “good deals” that she never used, she would have been able to buy bucket loads of compost starter.

I call this “poverty thinking.” Nonprofits get stuck in this poverty thinking all the time. They become so focused on stretching their money that they lose site of quality. They will put in the cheapest cabinets in a multimillion-dollar building. Or they will bring their major donor to McDonald’s to show her how frugal they are.

Most donors, especially major donors, are wise enough to know that paying a little more up front will save significant amounts of money down the road. Cheap cabinets may have saved a few bucks this year. But, due to less frequent repairs and replacements, buying a higher quality, more expensive cabinet will actually save money over time.

The same idea applies when it comes to cultivating donors. Paying a little more up front can save lots of money over time. Taking a donor out to a nice restaurant is a way of showing her that we value her, that her relationship means more to us than just the money she is giving. She needs to know that we care about her and share her interests.

Here’s a tip: If a donor means enough to your organization to take her out to dinner, go to a place with real silverware. By all means, show her how well you stewarded the money she gave, but don’t be a cheapskate.

To discover more fundraising myths, download a free chapter of Marc’s new book, Ask Without Fear.

This article is part of the Mythbusters series.

Here’s a list of each of the articles in this series:

  1. Fundraising Myth: If You Build It They Will Come by Sandra Sims
  2. The Myth of the “Selfless Volunteer” by Tom Welsh
  3. Fundraising Myth: It’s Great to Be Cheap by Marc Pitman
  4. Advertising and Marketing Are Too Expensive by Jim Berigan
  5. The Myth of the Dried Up Well by Sandy Rees
  6. Myths About Foundation Funding by Aaron Atwood

Posted on 17 April 2008

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