Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
A professor stood before his class, picked up a large jar and filled it with golf balls. He asked his students if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
Then he poured pebbles into the jar. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. Again he asked if the jar was full, and the students responded, “Yes.” Next he poured sand into the jar, and it filled up everything else. Again he asked the students if the jar was full, and they said, “Yes.”
Then he poured a cup of coffee into the jar, effectively filling every last space.
“This jar represents your life,” the professor said. “The golf balls are the important things — God, family, health and friends. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job and your house. The sand’s everything else — the small stuff.
“If you put sand in the jar first, there’s no room for the pebbles or golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you won’t have room for what’s important to you.”
What does this have to do with fundraising? A friend shared this story with me, and I thought about the challenges many development professionals deal with in their day-to-day roles. In the life of a fundraiser, the golf balls and pebbles are important things such as donor acquisition, donor renewals, warm prospects and lapsed donors.
The sand, or the “small stuff,” is the obstacles that often prevent us from achieving breakthrough results in our fundraising programs. Old policy issues such as, “We can’t possibly ask a volunteer for a gift,” “We really can’t ask for that level of gift from our donors,” or “We can’t spend that much on a donor mailing,” are examples of the negative thinking that can sabotage success.