Fundraising Lessons Learned From 'Groundhog Day'
It is that time of year when people begin to tire of winter. Many days of cold weather consist of some days filled with rain or snow.
Once in a while the sun comes out, and you think of spring. A great reminder that spring is around the corner is Groundhog Day. This event resets your vision and anticipation for the next phase of weather that is coming.
When I think of Groundhog Day, I think of Bill Murray in the 1993 American fantasy comedy film directed by the late Harold Ramis.
In "Groundhog Day," Murray plays a weatherman and finds himself in a time loop, repeating Groundhog Day over and over again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities. If you watched the movie, you remember the ongoing 6 a.m. scene when you hear a Sonny and Cher song as the alarm goes off. Many of us feel like Bill Murray when we experience the same things over and over again.
If you examine déjà vu, you will note that it is a French word meaning, literally, "already seen." According to Wikipedia, déjà vu is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, regardless of whether or not it has actually happened.
Psychologist Edward B. Titchener, in his book "A Textbook of Psychology" (1928), explained déjà vu as caused by a person having a brief glimpse of an object or situation before the brain has completed "constructing" a full conscious perception of the experience. Such a "partial perception" then results in a false sense of familiarity.
In a sense, you are feeling and doing the same things over and over again. Over time, with experience and repetition, you might feel that many of our activities or our reactions to the perceived same situations produce the same outcome.
How does all of this relate to fundraising success elements and positive outcomes? If you have been in fundraising for at least a year with a goal to reach, you realize in our world it is all about funds raised against a goal that is never reduced. It is also all about the number of donors that you generate, which relates to number of gifts produced. The key elements examined in these results are acquisition and retention.
We are always trying to secure greater dollars, donors and gifts from whatever means available to us. We spend countless hours reviewing totals compared to previous years or methods used. These elements give us pride and measure our worth as fundraising professionals. Our budgets, staffs and programs depend on the results generated from these various fundraising success elements. While vitally important, I contend several other variables are just as important and have a tremendous effect on the results we so desire.
The key elements are identification of prospects, rating and researching of prospects, solicitation of prospects, cultivation of prospects, and stewardship of prospects. By whatever means available, you must identify both quality and quantity of prospects consisting of corporations, foundations, associations, organizations and especially individuals. From the identification stage, you must have the research tools that evoke linkage, ability and inclination toward your cause.
By implementing a moves management system, you provide individual strategies for each prospect with potential solicitation goals. You need to maintain a growing number of solicitations that eventually will increase your dollars raised results. In fact, it is mandatory that each fundraising professional maintain a "vetted" dynamic and not static portfolio.
If you demand increased dollars, donors and gifts each year, you must likewise seek larger numbers of prospects identified, rated, cultivated, solicited and stewarded. Place all of these categories on a large board, and see if you have correct numbers in every category. If you do not have a holistic process for your fundraising cycle, you will fail in both short- and long-term results.
Doing the same thing over and over is relying on increased dollars, donors and gifts without expanding the number of prospects, number rated, number solicited, etc. Break out of Bill Murray's cycle and the experience of déjà vu. Complete fundraising success depends upon your 360-degree view of the total fundraising process.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.