A Different Kind of Fundraising Gift
As fundraisers, we’re always thinking about gifts—how to ask for them, how to acknowledge them and how to report back on them. But there’s another kind of gift—and while it won’t impact your 990, it may make fundraising activities more successful for years to come.
It’s the gift of mentoring.
Most likely, if you’ve been working as a fundraiser for more than a few years, you have accumulated a lot of knowledge and wisdom. Some of it has been from learning first and then doing, and other knowledge has been the result of just plunging in and seeing what happens. You’ve made some mistakes along the way, but you have probably learned from those, as well.
As we move into the summer, it’s a great time to think about sharing some of that knowledge and experience with someone else, because while it benefits the person you mentor, you’ll be amazed how it impacts you, as well.
You’ll be surprised at how much you really know. That may sound odd, but the truth is, after a while we just do it and forget that not everyone can intuitively select a good teaser or edit an e-appeal to have a stronger ask. It’s second nature for us to put together a fundraising event or meet with a donor face-to-face. It’s actually very refreshing to have someone ask a question and to realize that you have become an expert in that area—perhaps not intentionally, but because of needing to learn and doing it over and over again.
You’ll be challenged to ask yourself, “Why?” There are always going to be things seasoned professionals do that have become second nature, but perhaps aren’t being done as effectively or efficiently as they could be. When someone asks why you do something a certain way, you may discover that it’s just become a habit that no longer serves you as well as it once did. On the other hand, you may recall when you used to do it a different way that wasn’t as effective—reaffirming that you are making possible the maximum opportunity for success.
You’ll rediscover some things you absolutely love, but haven’t had time for lately. Sharing knowledge with someone else gives you the opportunity to go beyond what’s in your inbox or stacked on your desk. An eager learner will seek your advice on some areas of fundraising that you may have been delegating for years. Digging into them once again may remind you why fundraising first appealed to you, and will also sharpen your skills as you supervise others now performing those tasks.
You’ll feel an amazing sense of purpose. Mentoring another person is a wonderful gift to that person, but selfishly, it is also rewarding. Let’s face it—it’s normal to wonder if you will leave a lasting mark on your corner of the world. Sharing your knowledge and seeing someone else grab onto it and grow professionally as a result of it is an incredible experience. You may not write a book or record a video that gets a million views on YouTube, but there will be at least one person who has a more rewarding career—and at least one nonprofit that achieves more of its mission—because of your investment in that person.
Clint Eastwood has said, “What I think the mentor gets is the great satisfaction of helping somebody along, helping somebody take advantage of an opportunity that maybe he or she did not have.” This summer, take time to give yourself the gift of great satisfaction by giving someone else the gift of your knowledge and experience. This old dog is grateful to those who invested time in my career. I hope that they would agree that the best way I have shown my gratitude is to invest in others.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.