Do it Now! Why Urgency is Key to Fundraising and Leadership
One of our team-guiding principles is to approach each opportunity and project with a sense of urgency.
Early in my career, I interviewed for a few positions. After each interview, I waited for the call. Well, to be honest I waited on the call the next day. After all, who would not want to hire me? It was my major focus.
Then, when I began to hire people, I realized that this was a process. It took time. There were a lot of moving pieces. Even if someone was a top candidate—especially in larger organizations—sometimes things moved slower. It was not my only focus.
As a young professional, it was tough putting myself in the shoes of the hiring professional and the dynamics he or she faced.
As fundraising professionals, we must put ourselves in the shoes of the donor, volunteer or prospective donor. How we approach a situation includes the strategy, the approach and the timing/urgency. Sometimes, like with the hiring story, we need to give someone a bit more time.
However, sometimes we need to create a sense of urgency ourselves. This includes following up with any request. This might mean sending responses to a situation as soon as possible and getting out thank-you messages (preferably a handwritten note but at least an email) right away.
Every time I visit with fundraising icon and my mentor, fundraising icon Jerry Panas, I get a beautifully written note within days. Like Jerry, each note makes a profound impact. He has made communicating with me a priority and it honors and humbles me.
Years ago a billionaire philanthropist mentioned on a tour that he was curious what a $1 million gift to help two organizations collaborate would mean. We had a full proposal and program draft to him within days. The result? It was funded. Had we delayed, the donor would have lost confidence in our ability to fulfill his vision.
Throughout my career, I’ve never kept or seen someone who always wants to put off projects as someone with a future or long-term potential. To create momentum, build success in your organization day to day, and, especially with a campaign, you have to do it now!
Be alert to recognize opportunities and respond. Have systems in place, even just at weekly team meetings, to be alert to priorities that are slipping by. With every situation, ask how you can create more urgency?
With donors, we need to create urgency for them to respond now.
I’ve seen people who create urgency by causing chaos. Be like a duck, smooth on the surface yet paddling quickly under the surface.
And finally, know the difference between important and not important. Urgent and not urgent. Just as knowing what situations need an immediate response, know what opportunities can be postponed or delayed.
But, know that if you don’t respond to volunteers, donors and prospective donors with urgency, you may likely lose that opportunity in the future.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.