I don’t care much for rich dumb guys like the geniuses on Wall Street who got us into this current economic mess—and seem determined to keep us there. 

But I do pay attention to what rich smart guys have to say. Like Warren Buffett, who is now the world’s richest person, thanks to patient, low-glitz investing. Here’s what Buffett says:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

He’s talking about investing, not fundraising. But it’s something we all could take to heart.

The sloppy, fear-driven fundraisers who make up most of our industry are freaking out. They’re cutting budgets and crawling into their caves to wait this thing out.

There’s another way. Those fear-based cuts mean a less crowded fundraising marketplace: Less junk in the mailbox. It also means printers and mailshops, facing less business, are more willing than ever to cut us deals.

Better yet, treating donors right will keep them on board. 

All told, this is a time when you can spend less to get more. Unless you’re too afraid.  Unless the challenges of a down economy are your excuse to avoid fundraising.

When this storm finally blows over and mailboxes again fill up with junk mail—when the consultants are out again in full force with their all-new miracle programs—when every yuppie who does well in the market starts his or her own nonprofit ... that’s when you should feel nervous and thinking about retrenchment. 

Most nonprofits face pain in the coming months. But if you follow Warren Buffett’s advice, you’ll emerge faster, and in far better shape, than if you follow the freaked-out herd.

imageJeff Brooks is creative director at Merkle|Domain, a direct-response agency serving the nonprofit world.  He blogs at the Donor Power Blog.