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3 Terrible Tales of Foul Fundraising

3 Terrible Tales of Foul Fundraising

The following post is a guest article written by Sandy Rees, Get Fully Funded.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was simple and people wanted to simply help nonprofits fulfill their mission?

Unfortunately, fundraising isn’t always simple. Or easy.

Some people have hidden agendas or want lots of attention, and things can get ugly – fast! It’s almost Halloween and to celebrate, here are 3 stories from real organizations that have dealt with some monstrous situations.


In the world of nonprofit fundraising, we often envision a harmonious partnership between organizations and donors, working together to make the world a better place. However, the reality can be far from ideal. Fundraising is not always a straightforward and pleasant experience. Sometimes, hidden agendas, misunderstandings, and unexpected challenges can lead to monstrous situations.

Critical and Uncaring

About 8-9 years ago, we had MAJOR sound system issues at our big fundraising dinner. Of course, it was during my speech!

The room was too big and cavernous for me to be heard without a sound system, so I was trying my best to stay calm and joke around while they tried to fix it. The fellow we had there to play the piano jumped up and started playing something that he knew I could sing. (I have sung semi-professionally for more than 20 years.) Song ended…still no sound system.

So, I got up to the podium and decided that I would speak as loudly as possible and finish my speech. I knew for every minute you run past your stated ending time, you lose lots of $$$. As if the evening couldn’t get worse, as I stood there trying to give my message, my necklace broke, with many, many tiny beads rolling all over the floor. Still no sound system. I drew my speech to the most dignified close that I could think of and sat down.

When we got the table host critiques, one woman said that I made a fool of myself and they hoped that I never again had a microphone put in my hand! She then offered to sign me up for public-speaking lessons! I was dancing as fast as I can up there and apparently, she thought I had the whole thing set up! I never did get that necklace put back together.

Eva Pierce, Executive Director, A Hand Up For Women
Note: Eva has led that organization through some significant growth including purchasing a building and increasing revenue. Obviously, she knows what she’s doing!

Bizarrely Blunt

The other day a donor stopped me after mass and said to me, “I just sent you a note. I am not coming to your banquet. I am attending another one and giving my donation to them.” Interesting how she made it a point to tell me this even though she had just said all of that in a note that was on its way to me. I had to try really hard not to dislike her because I have always liked her up until this point. She got “blessed and let go.” Clearly, she’s not my tribe.

Nancy Kiolbasa, Founder, Marriage Material

Angry About Alcohol

There is a local church that had supported us for years with monthly giving until I received a very hateful CHRISTMAS CARD telling us they would no longer be supporting us because of a fundraiser we had involving a local brewery. I reached out to them several times to try and meet with them, and they would not even respond to me. Fortunately, they were the exception and not the rule – other churches couldn’t have cared less. Also (and fortunately!), I was able to talk my Board down from banning alcohol at any of our events. I’m glad to say we have a wine tasting event coming up soon, and many of our church friends are first in line for tickets!

Amy Grimes Sims, Executive Director, The Community Table


These tales from the realm of nonprofit fundraising serve as stark reminders that even in the pursuit of noble causes, challenges and bizarre encounters can rear their heads. As we navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of fundraising, it’s essential to remember that, like any other field, it has its share of peculiar and even frightening stories. Despite these obstacles, individuals like Eva Pierce, Nancy Kiolbasa, and Amy Grimes Sims, showcased here, continue to steer their organizations towards success and resilience.

So, the next time you face a challenging fundraising situation, take heart from these tales and remember that even in the darkest moments, perseverance can lead to success and growth in the world of philanthropy. And if you have a hair-raising fundraising story of your own, don’t hesitate to share it in the comments—we’d love to hear it! Happy Halloween, and may your future fundraising endeavors be a little less terrifying.

About the Author: Sandy Rees

Sandy shows founders and leaders of small nonprofits howSandy Rees to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to mastering donor-based fundraising, inspiring their donors to give often and give big. Learn how to raise the money you need to fund your new nonprofit without begging, doing without, or paying out of your own pocket.

Click here to learn more about Get Fully Funded.

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Sandy Rees is the founder of Get Fully Funded where she shows nonprofit founders how to fully fund their big vision so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped hundreds of new nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Grab her latest ebook “Fund Your Dream” at

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