In TG, we coach champions; in ttf, they flatter donors

I’m sure Jeff Brooks is joking when he favorably cites Neuromarketing’s Flattery Will Get You Somewhere post.

It’s the Neuromarketing post that has me kind of freaked out.

The Neuromarketing post reports, “[N]ew research shows that even when people perceive that flattery is insincere, that flattery can still leave a lasting and positive impression of the flatterer“.

Their resulting recommendation?

Engage in “ethical flattery”:

The key to using flattery in a non-manipulative way is to be honest. Particularly in a direct sales environment where the interaction is customized to the individual, the salesperson can praise some action or characteristic of the customer and do so in a way that is not dishonest in any way.

In a more general marketing situation, honesty can still be maintained with targeted pitches. For example, “When you purchased one of our Platinum Class suits, you demonstrated that you are an individual who recognizes and appreciates both sophisticated styling and superb quality…”

These customized approaches are not only more honest but are likely far more effective than, say, a mass mailing that makes an obviously bogus flattering statement about the recipient. Even though the study suggests that the latter approach might actually work, a statement that is actually grounded in truth will cause less cognitive dissonance and create a favorable impression of the firm or brand at both implicit and explicit levels.


Jeff Brooks adds:

One of the many nice things about donors is you don’t have to be insincere to flatter them. They are self-demonstrating excellent people. Just pointing out the truth about them is enough.

So go for it. Flatter away. Your donors more than deserve it.

We’ve long spoken against the use of flattery in working with “donors”, and our arguments have never contended that flattery doesn’t work. Clearly it does. Our arguments have centered around two main poles:

  1. There’s a term for fawning all over someone (even a wonderful someone) in order to get something from them. It’s called sycophantic, as in:Adj. 1. sycophantic – attempting to win favor from influential people by flattery. Synonyms: bootlicking, fawning, obsequious, toadyish

    I never–never–want to be a professional bootlicker. The thought nauseates me. What an embarrassment that would be not only to me and to my organization and to my cause but to my wife and children as well. And something tells me it doesn’t exactly thrill God either. Despite the very valid research that shows that people will extend their boots to be licked by a professional bootlicker, I hope that you have too much dignity to extend your tongue. No one doubts that prostitution is effective, too; only that it is a smidge unethical…no matter how “ethically” one may undertake the practice.

  2. In Transformational Giving (TG), we coach champions to comprehensive maturity in the cause. As I wrote in a previous post:”Needless to say, [flattery] doesn’t put us in a particularly advantageous position to hold individuals accountable, subject them to strenuous training, coach them to do things they are really uncomfortable doing…and then drill them when they fall short. These are all the things any coach must do, and it’s certainly no less true in TG coaching where our goal is to equip individuals to grow comprehensively into the fullness of Christ in relation to the cause.”

Traditional transactional fundraising (ttf) has no qualms about bootlicking. “As long as the money’s green” has long been ttf’s motto. Anything legal or “ethical” that can be done to yield more green is considered reasonable practice. To which I have a very unflattering reply:


This is the kind of sycophantic silliness that is a continued blight on our profession…and just one more reason to jump off the sinking ship that is traditional transactional fundraising (ttf), even when it’s sinking as slowly as it is.

I think I’ll go shower.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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1 Response to In TG, we coach champions; in ttf, they flatter donors

  1. Pingback: Donor “control” is a cause for celebration, not resignation « Transformational Giving

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