The problem with “more money” as your final answer

It’s a delight when a big voice from the blogging world – someone smarter, more eloquent, and better known than me – says something that I’ve already said here at Generous Matters. I am gratified when an  issue I deemed important enough to write about gets wider play. And of course, there’s pleasure in knowing that at least one great mind thinks like mine.

business_woman_chase_piggy_bank_18386Seth Godin’s brief blog post from the other day does just that. Titled “Throwing money at it,” his essay mirrors a piece I wrote back in January 2015 challenging the widely held belief that more fundraising is THE answer for what ails the nonprofit sector.

To be sure, there are situations, problems, and times for which more money is the cure du jour. Godin and I agree on this.

He writes: “If a problem can be fixed with money or other resources, and you can afford it, you should do so, quickly, efficiently and without breaking a sweat.”

Specific to fundraising, I wrote: “Sometimes the fundraising program really is the culprit, and if that’s what you discover, then get to work to make things right. STAT!”


More often than we want to admit, however, too little money isn’t the real problem or more money, a lasting solution. A lot of the messes in which we (individuals and organizations) find ourselves are long-running, systemically entrenched, and beyond the help of a quick infusion of cash.

On Godin’s list are issues like “trust or judgment. Horrific injuries or crimes against nature. . . the mythical man-month to the relationship that uses resources as a false proxy for other things yet to be discussed.”

On mine are “a disengaged board, a revolving door to the C-Suite, a founder who has held on for too long, or a less than compelling mission and story.”

For these and other challenges, money (even lots of it) can’t fix the problem. In fact, throwing more of it at a poorly run organization, business, or community usually makes a bad situation worse.

The better way, according to Godin, is to “resist that shortcut and get to the heart of the matter instead.” Or stated as I did for leaders of faith-based nonprofits, “reject making ‘raise more money’ the answer to every question, seeking instead deeper answers as you steward the whole of the Kingdom cause entrusted to you.”

And there you have it. Advice from yesterday (me) and today (Seth Godin) as you head into tomorrow.

What's your take on this topic?

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