Grow With the Flow
The successful fundraiser convinces potential donors that the cause it represents is worthier than other causes. Ross mentions a friend who organized a campaign to help the National Gallery in London retain possession of a valuable painting that was on the verge of being purchased by an American.
“He had an absolute faith that keeping the painting in the National Gallery was the most important thing to do, and he persuaded donors that it was,” Ross recalls. “He even got several American donors to give him money, which was bizarre. Why would an American give a British gallery $3 million to keep an Italian painting in Britain?”
The answer, Ross says, is that his fundraiser friend was curious enough to find out which aspect of his cause was most effective — i.e., retaining the painting was a matter of national pride — and he used that aspect to turn potential donors into believers. Then he was creative and innovative enough to find a way to make sure people actually gave money.
“Creativity is the process of coming up with ideas, while innovation is the process of selecting ideas that have value,” Ross says. “Lots of creative organizations aren’t really innovative or just don’t make use of their creativity.”
“Innovation requires flexibility,” Ross adds. “If you’re not flexible, you’ll find yourself thinking negative thoughts: We’ve never done that before, that’s too high risk, we need something more adventurous, the chief executive wouldn’t like that, and so on.”
Ross stresses that there’s nothing inherently grand about any of the qualities he identifies as crucial to the art of fundraising.
“The interesting thing is that many people think of creativity strictly in terms of high art,” he says. “The truth is that, in the workplace, creativity is often just a matter of doing something slightly different. Then it becomes innovation.”