Do You Have FUD

Overcoming The “FUD” Factor

As we dealt with much of the U.S. economy grinding to a halt over the past three months, non-profits have felt the impact. Now, even as we begin to move forward, we continue to see an increase in what we refer to here at The Timothy Group as “The FUD Factor.”

What exactly is “FUD?” Well, Pat began referencing The FUD Factor in his first book, Major Donor Game Plan, in 2006. It was true then and still is today. FUD is an acronym for “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.” It plagues many good institutions and hinders many otherwise productive development teams.

As recent as this week, Pat and I had a discussion with one of our clients who is experiencing FUD. They were forced to put their capital campaign on pause back in March and are now struggling with when and how to re-engage. Their main question is, “Are our donors ready?” Ongoing discussions with them include many examples of FUD:


Will donors misunderstand our motives? Will we offend our donors by asking them for money now or in the near future?


Will our mission and case resonate as strongly today as it did a few months back?


How much should we worry if our donors have the resources to give during these times?

FUD can produce other obstacles as we move forward, including:

Loss of Momentum

Momentum is a funny thing. When it is gone, it is sometimes hard to flip the switch back on. We have seen it derail good fundraising efforts with past clients.

Volunteer Fatigue

We may lose some of our best volunteers through inactivity. If you don’t engage with them regularly, you may need to go back and recruit them a second time, or at worst, need to start afresh.

Lack of Donor Cultivation

Your donors need romance and cultivation before actual solicitation. If FUD causes you to be afraid to romance or cultivate, it makes it even harder to actually ask for a gift.

How Can You Overcome The FUD Factor?

Consider this excerpt from Pat’s Major Donor Game Plan book (pages 97-98):

This is all-important. Many major-donor relationships are never consummated because of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. We the solicitors suffer from the FUD syndrome, not the major donor. Overcoming this FUD obstacle will absolutely change your advancement office mentality, production, performance, and net gift income. Your capital campaigns will get funded. You will begin to lay a foundation for endowment funding. Overcoming the FUD syndrome will make an impact.

Fear grips all of us at different times in our lives. You know that nail-biting, worry-about-all-kinds-of-things fear. In most donor relationships, we fear the loss of relationship. We have carefully Researched and Romanced this particular donor and now we are afraid of making “the ___________ ask”, or making it in the wrong way, so fear takes over. “Oh my, what if we ask to high and offend them?

After all, a damaged relationship is very difficult to restore. “We have worked this hard to get them to this point with our organization, so perhaps we had better wait. We certainly do not want to offend them.” Perhaps they will even approach us and indicate somewhat out of the clear blue sky what they might be willing to invest. Remember a concept mentioned earlier: No heavenly hinting.

Most of all, we fear rejection. We fear the pain of hearing a NO! Sometimes we even fear hearing a NOT RIGHT NOW! We are uncertain how to craft material to take along on the call, or how to conduct a brief Request session. We begin to feed our fear, uncertainty, and doubt with statements like, “I doubt if they (the potential major donors) would have any interest in helping to fund this project.”

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are killers to any major-donor program.

You must begin to address and eliminate the FUD factor in your organization. Sit down as a fundraising team, an advancement team, with your trustee board, development team, or campaign committee and honestly evaluate the FUD factor that has limited your success to date. As you begin to honestly address the fear, uncertainty, and doubt, you are one more step closer to having an effective major donor program.

Article submitted by Kent Vanderwood and Pat McLaughlin.

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