A Journey of a Thousand Miles

By June 7, 2013training

My most requested training is one in which I orient volunteers to the process of fundraising. The ultimate goal is to help build better fundraisers, but usually there is one or two I’m just hoping to convince that fundraising isn’t what they think it is.

Nobody became a great skier overnight either.

Out of all of the groups I’ve worked with, not one has characterized their group as adept at fundraising. Not one. Many have been particularly down on their group’s ability and/or willingness to engage in development. Some have told me they think members of their group are actually going to be hostile when the subject comes up.

If anyone finds a seminar through which a timid skeptic becomes a skilled fundraiser overnight, sign me up. Most of the time, skilled fundraisers are people who have built their skills and confidence over time. They’re not always going to hear a “yes” in answer to a request, but they are confident enough to actually make the request. They build confidence by having some sense that what they’re asking is the right thing to ask, and they’re confident to some degree that their request won’t hurt their relationship with the person they’re asking. Finally, they’ve done it enough it’s lost its power to produce the anxiety

Every person in a group that seeks training in the art of fundraising is going to come from his own place in a spectrum that runs the gamut from insecure neophyte to confident closer. The key is to make the personal commitment to become better, more knowledgeable and confident than you already are. This can only come from experience – taking specific steps toward an identified goal, then setting a new goal and progressing toward that. One person’s goals are going to be different from those of another person, but everyone should have a plan for personal improvement.

Just like any plan, a plan for becoming a better fundraiser should include specific activities, timelines and objectives:

–       Start with your own gift first. Add to the resources of the organization and give yourself the leverage to ask your friends to join you.

–       Get your story down. When asked why you are a part of XYZ organization, be prepared to state the facts, but don’t leave out the story that ties everything together for you personally.

–       Think about whom you could talk to. This is the scary part for many, but start with the people who are predisposed to hearing about the organization and work outward from there:

  • Look over the list of established donors to the organization. What can you do to help deepen their engagement? How about a personal thank you? I guarantee the development officer doesn’t have the time to personally reach out and thank every donor like she should.
  • Look over the list of lapsed donors to the organization. How can you help re-engage them? Strategize with another volunteer or staff who knows that person and come up with a plan.

–       Brainstorm, discretely, with staff and board. Who isn’t on either list but should be? Your best prospects are people whom you or someone else knows who can make the connection, who has or may have some sort of affinity for the cause, and who has or may have capacity to give. Sharing this information doesn’t obligate you to become the person who delivers the pitch, but it’s critical to the process and invaluable to the person who eventually does.

Just like any journey to improve ourselves: become more fit, more spiritual, more well read, more ANYTHING, we don’t go from point A to point Z in a single day. We progress by degrees – experiencing some successes and some failures along the way.

The important things are: commit, believe you can improve, celebrate progress along the way and keep going, build momentum while staying focused on your goal.

And don’t forget to cheer on others around you as they share your journey.

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