I think of it as The Oprah Syndrome.
And if you raise money for a nonprofit, I’m betting you’ve run into it, too.
Picture this: you’re at a board meeting. The topic of discussion is a forecast deficit for the year.
“What are we to do?”, the finance chair moans.
Board members look around, hoping someone else will have a great idea. Otherwise, there will be tough choices. And those are so messy!
Suddenly, one member raises his hand. “Why don’t we ask Oprah for money? She’s got so much! And I’m sure she’d really care about our work.”
(That’s the sound of the development director’s head hitting the table.)
There you have it. The Oprah Syndrome.
The quick fix. The silver bullet. The easy answer to all your money woes.
It’s not just the board, though. I’ve seen staff do it, too. And sometimes, there’s no national celebrity involved.
“If we could just call that CEO… I just read in the paper that he makes 10 million a year! Surely we should get some of it?”
Now, if you can find a connection to the CEO, and if he has any interest in what you do – well, then maybe it’s not such a bad idea.
But chances are, you can’t.
And I find the mindset sort of troubling.
It’s not very donor-centric to assume that great wealth means an obligation to give to your organization. Even a billionaire doesn’t want to be loved only for his money.
The other reason this syndrome worries me is the wishful thinking. It’s just plain wasted time and energy. There aren’t really shortcuts.
Fundraising is much more about the daily small steps than about a moon-shot.
While you’re chasing Oprah, you’re not doing the real work of connecting to donors.
So, by all means, work on building connections. That should always be part of it.
Just don’t get sidetracked by sparkly things.
(Though, if you DO know Oprah… would you send me her address? I’ve got a GREAT program that she’d just love…)