Do you find yourself sinking into a fundraising hole?
If so, you’re not the first. And you won’t be the last.
I’m going to tell you how to begin to dig yourself out!
First, stop blaming others. It’s not because so-and-so foundation just pulled their grant (how dare they?). It’s not because the government just cut back funding in your area (those bastards!). It’s not because your development director is lazy (why can’t she work 70 hours?)… and it’s not because your board doesn’t give enough (they’re so stingy!).
Sure, some of those things may be happening. But in and of themselves they’re not the problem. No. They’re merely contributing factors. Eliminate one, and another will quickly rear it’s ugly head. So if you sometimes feel you’re playing “Whack a Mole,” that’s why. You’re going after the moles, rather than the tunnel that’s leading them to you. If you want to solve the real problem, you’ve got to dig. Dig deep.
Dig SO deep that you come right to the core. Your core. The fire in your belly. That passionate vision that what you do really matters.
Do you have it? Did you have it once, but lose it? Do the leaders you surround yourself with have it?
If not, how can you lead others towards that end?
Your problem is a failure of leadership.
There are a whole host of things you can do to reconnect with your passion and address a failure of leadership. I encourage you to click on the preceding links, read those articles and try as many of those suggestions as make sense to you. And if you need a little help — or just want someone to bounce ideas off of — you know where to find me.
But before you do that, let me put you into the proper frame of mind. Because change is hard. We fall into patterns and habits of which we’re barely aware — making it all the more difficult to break out of them. Sometimes we need something, or someone, to shake us out of our stupor.
Today I want to share with you an article that turned on a light bulb in my head. It’s by Ken Burnett, one of the leading lights in today’s fundraising universe, and I consider it a must-read: Keeping the right fundraisers. What he has to say applies equally to staff and board. And it has to do with the attitudes these folks bring with them to your workplace. Burnett divides the world into radiators and drains.
If you or any of your leaders are drains you will need to address this in order to pull your organization up out of the hole into which you’ve been sinking.
Let me explain.
Burnett speaks of entering the nonprofit field with rose-colored “I’m going to change the world” glasses. But he didn’t find the “fire in the belly” change agents he’d expected on nonprofit boards and staff.
“Instead, as often as not, what met me was indifference… most people seemed to have little idea of ‘big picture’ in what they were doing and why, no sense of changing the world.. Not everyone, it seemed, shared my passion and enthusiasm… Though my starry-eyed idealism quickly evaporated I’ve never lost the belief that what we do does matter, that by fueling good works fundraising makes a fantastic difference in this lousy world.”
Do your board and staff see the big picture? Are they excited by your mission? Or do you need to reignite passions and remind folks of the life-changing outcomes they facilitate.
Most organizations need more “radiators”; fewer “drains.”
The radiators spread heat and passion, radiating the warm glow of making a difference.
The drains suck out the emotion, neutralize feelings and commoditize giving till it becomes like any other commercial transaction. They’ve professionalized to the point that passion, dreams and aspirations are usurped and replaced by the cold, remorseless logic of the marketplace.
Donors give in spite of the drains — the drains are passion assassins, with skills they consider readily transferable between causes. They’re more about analyzing than feeling, more about spreadsheets and ROIs than lump-in-the-throat testimonials and transformational storytelling.
They give because of the radiators.
“Radiation,” or the lack thereof, is an issue of leadership.
And this is where you must begin. Step by step… from the inside, out… beginning with your current radiator core. Hopefully this includes you. Your key staff. Your handful of board radiators. Hunker down. Build a plan. Bring in some new radiators. Use your new and old radiators to spread the heat. Keep adding fuel. Don’t let the fire burn out.
The bottom line? As King Lear said to his daughter Cordelia: “Nothing comes from nothing.” Burnett puts it this way:
It’s about investing far more than we now do in customer service and donor retention. It’s also about recruiting, training and inspiring the right people to work with donors and stressing for them, unambiguously, what it is that matters most.
All too often, organizations run by folks who self identify as “professionals” (many of your board members no doubt fall into this category) have the tendency to drain all the emotion out of their cause. They focus on processes (how services are delivered) rather than why they originally were compelled (usually by emotion, not reason) to head in this direction. Of the umpteen different hats you and your most effective leaders may feel you’re wearing on any given day, it’s time to…
Put on your radiator caps!
If every new recruit can be a committed emotional fundraiser then maybe we’ll have a chance of changing the current donor/cause paradigm, in which our causes are viewed by many as minor irritations at best, money-grubbing, stress-inducing social evils at worst.
Here’s a chance to give would-be fundraisers the job satisfaction they crave and so help stem the turnover that causes our enterprises to hemorrhage their finest talent. But best of all, donors would love it. They don’t want to deal with professional career fundraisers who don’t feel the passion. They need to be impressed, inspired and infected by those who do.
Grab an “Hour of Power” – Book a Deal
Want some help figuring out how to overcome a brick wall you’ve come up against? I know not everyone has a big budget for consulting, training, coaching and mentoring. But that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t use a little help now and then. The great thing about the ‘Hour of Power’ is that we cut right to the chase. I promise we’ll pack a lot into our hour together and you’ll leave with practical strategies and a new vision around your next steps. Grab it here. Or get a discounted package of 4 hours. I’d love to be part of your success.
Images courtesy of Freedigital photos.net