Resolutions for 2012
I never was very good at New Year's resolutions. No matter how humble or grandiose my annual proclamations, I was sidetracked within weeks by what I was certain was the sheer weight of having made them. I gave them up for good the year I ate a pint of ice cream for breakfast one Jan. 2 — driven, I reasoned, by the pressure I put upon myself to start eating better in the new year.
But that doesn't stop me from making suggestions for others, though I usually keep them to myself. The nice lady at the Express Mart doesn't need to know, for example, that I think it's time she let her eyebrows grow in rather than zipping them off with a home wax kit and drawing them on with black eyeliner. (No, she isn't afflicted with any malady that makes it impossible for her to have natural eyebrows; she just prefers an arch that the human body is incapable of producing on its own.) Like I said, in the interest of decorum and public safety, I keep these things to myself.
But when it comes to resolutions for you all, I feel like I can put my suggestions out there for you to chew on as we head into 2012 because, well, these aren't actually my suggestions. They're ideas that I've heard fundraising professionals advise over and over during the past few years — all of which make good sense and great fundraising. For example:
1. I resolve to stop using myself as a gauge for what will resonant with my donors. In other words, stop trying to raise money from yourself. No matter who you are or where you are in your fundraising career, you probably aren't a proper representative for your target donor demographic. You're likely younger and much more ingrained in the inner workings of the fundraising milieu in general and the work of your organization specifically. Your donors don't eat, drink, sleep and breathe your organization's messaging, so they aren't as bored with it as you might be. They might not even remember that they get four mailings from you a year — much less the details of what any of them said. They're not jaded to the specifics of your organization's work, so you can't speak to them as though you are. Your communications need to be personal, raw, real — and consistent. And the only way to sustain that is to get your nose out of your navel and start looking at your work through your donors' eyes.
2. I resolve to stop treating donors like walking ATM machines. You need to take a genuine interest in your donors' goals for their partnership with your organization. You can only do that by building relationships with donors, listening to them, and communicating with them honestly about how, together, they and your organization can change the world. The days of talking at donors are over; it's time for meaningful conversations that take place as part of ongoing, mutually beneficial and respectful relationships.
These are just two of the themes we've seen emerge over the past few years. But they seem to be two of the ones that sit at the heart of most of the rest. Here's wishing you a wonderful new year full of growth and joy, outrageous hope and practical solutions. Happy 2012, y'all!