Work Those Basics, Baby
I admit it: I’m a dieter. If you could get paid for losing weight — or, more precisely, trying to lose weight — I would be part of the uppermost echelon of professional weight-loss superstars. I would lead my class in picking apart books, Web sites and the gray matter of medical professionals in search of the (drumroll, please) Keys to Weight Loss Success.
But I already have those keys — and they’re nothing more complex than eating smart and exercising more. Add all the bells and whistles you want to that equation: fancy names, pseudo-scientific theory, celebrity endorsements … but the fact is that once you know the basics, it’s simply a matter of maneuvering them in ways that work for you.
I think the same can be said for fundraising. There are rock-solid tenets that, once you’ve explored and mastered them, will serve you well no matter what your mission or the size of your budget or housefile.
But I feared that maybe we here at FS were missing something. That perhaps there was out there, as Senior Editor Paul Barbagallo so adroitly put it, “an alternate universe of fundraising that we know nothing about.”
That pithy comment opened a floodgate of conversation and speculation both here in our offices and out there, among our readers and advertisers, about the nature of nonprofit fundraising.
The upshot? It turns out my suspicions were correct. There is, at the heart of fundraising, a set of rules, the nitty gritty that fuels every campaign. Rules without which an organization will fall far short of its development goals.
Of course, there are new twists on the tried and true: the burgeoning motherlode that is e-philanthropy … the simmering debate over modeling vs. RFM … cutting-edge technologies, for example. But those are just the manipulation of the basics I talked about.
This is why, and rightfully so, development folks of all levels flock to educational forums — whether it’s a four-day conference or a half-day workshop — where you’ll find salty old pros scribbling notes just as furiously as a fresh young thing with a year and a half under her belt. She probably learned the basics in six months in ‘03, he in ‘63. But they’re both looking for the “key,” the secret of success that will help them maneuver the basics.
But the secret is — are you ready for this? — there is no secret. Other than communing with your peers and finding out what’s worked for them. Gleaning gold from their successes — and their failures. Sharing information and then biting the bullet and doing. Testing. Retesting. Kicking yourself. Throwing a few things. Basically, just soldiering on.
Does this mean that Paul and I are out of a job? I hope not. Probably not. Because FundRaising Success doesn’t claim to have the answers. But we do strive to be a distribution center, of sorts, where professionals can “meet” one another and share ideas without having to wait for the next conference.
As such, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. If my perception of there not being anything (really) new under the fundraising sun is wrong, by all means, let me know. Or just drop us a line and tell us if there’s something you’d like to see addressed in these pages. We’ll do all we can to do just that.
And speaking of gold
As promised, you can find your very own copy of the entry forms for FundRaising Success’ 2005 Gold Awards for Direct Mail Excellence on Pages 48 and 49 of this issue. You also can find them online at www.fundraisingsuccessmag.com. Entries have to be in our offices by June 1, so don’t waste any time in your selection process. It’ll be here before you know it!