April is a good time to think about being a fool–and how it can help your nonprofit raise more money.
We’re used to thinking of April Fool’s Day as a time when people try to play tricks on each other, to “fool them.” The fool has a proud history, however.
In Shakespeare, fools are truth-tellers who find funny ways to bring supposedly smarter people up short and make them think about what they’re really doing. And in many religious traditions, the “holy fool” character has a lot to teach the normal neighbors, and even the wise! *
What can your nonprofit learn from fools? How will foolish wisdom help you connect with an audience of supporters and get more support for your cause?
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be
-Touchstone, As You Like It, V.1.2217
5 Tips from Fools about Communications and Fundraising
- Show up. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, or so the proverb says. Be foolish enough to interact with your supporters often: by email, online, in person when possible. Let them expect you to be there.
- Know your audience. Get used to saying things the way your people will actually hear them.
- Repeat. Fools know that saying something over and over again is no waste of words. It’s how you get your message heard and remembered.
- Be traditional. There’s no need to go chasing the latest technique, or platform, or other Bright Shiny Object. Motley and rhyme work for Shakespeare’s fools. Mail and gratitude work for nonprofits.
- Use humor. Just because the need is serious doesn’t mean you must be solemn, all the time.
And by the way, I’m not suggesting that you have to dress up in a spangled suit and a cap with bells, but you can use poetry, music, and body language to get your message across, ask for money, or thank your donors. Video is a great medium for playing the fool!
*One of my favorite “holy fool” stories is about Rebbe Zusya of Hanipol (a town that’s in today’s Ukraine). Rebbe Zusya was both a master of the Hasidic tradition AND an innocent.
Someone posed the following question to him:
“Rebbe Zusya, suppose you found a million rubles in the street. Would you give it back, or would you keep it?”
Zusya thought, and his face grew sad. “I wish I could say. If the million rubles belonged to a poor man, of course I would give it back. But if it belonged to a rich man…oh, I would be so tempted!”
Today, there are far too many policymakers who do the opposite. They take good care of rich people’s money, but as for poor people’s? Oy!