One of the most useful aspects of going through old library correspondence is that you gain professional experience without having to make mistakes. I found a fabulous letter from an donor to a librarian (ca. 1968) in which she discourses at length about many things, including fundraising:
“…Another thing I don’t like is making contributions to organizations that engage public relations counselors, as I always feel that my money is being handed over to a lot of smart aleck smoothies, who are rated on their ability to lie convincingly. Why on earth cannot reasonably intelligent people control their own public relations? Anyone who has mastered freshman English, and has the slightest speck of wit, or imagination, ought to be able to do so.”
The lesson I take from this is similar to what I gleaned from a conversation with a former boss of mine, who was a brilliant fundraiser. I asked, “how do you master the rhetoric of fundraising?” “It’s not rhetoric,” he replied. I realized that he must be right. Until and unless you believe deeply and honestly in raising money for your cause, potential donors will sense your insincerity.