Inspirational stories can motivate. But stigmatized stories can cripple. This matters for fundraising because it matters for fundraisers. Few professions suffer more from stigmatized stories than fundraising.

Story begins with character. Consider the “fundraiser” character. What is this role? What is this title? Fundraiser. What does that mean? Fund means money. Raiser means one who retrieves or gets. So, a fundraiser is a “money getter.” Not very inspirational, is it? It doesn’t distinguish the profession from other “money getters.”

But “fundraiser” actually does imply more. It implies money getting by a specific method. How does a “fund” (money) “raiser” (getter) accomplish this money-getting? By asking. By asking based on need. By asking based on need without offering anything comparable in return.

What’s another word for that? Begging. says to “seek charity” has these synonyms: Solicit charity, beg, hustle, cadge, chisel, freeload, mooch, sponge, and panhandle. (Do you sense any possible stigma in these synonyms?)

Social psychologists define stigmatized work as having either a social or moral taint.

“Social taint occurs … where the worker appears to have a servile relationship to others (e.g., shoe shiner, customer complaints clerk, butler, maid). Moral taint occurs where the worker is thought to employ methods that are deceptive, intrusive, confrontational, or that otherwise defy norms of civility (e.g., bill collector, tabloid reporter, telemarketer …”

How does this relate to fundraisers? Fundraisers can have both types of job stigma. Research on employee retention confirms this.

Read more about the stigmatized story character in Russell James’ blog

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