How Often Do You Go to the Well?
I enjoy sayings and figures of speech that stand the test of time. I was recently interested in the concept of "going to the well too often" in the context of fundraising. Figuratively, going to the well too often means that you shouldn't repeat a risky action too often — or you push your luck too far.
According to the 2006 "Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," an early 14th-century French proverb says, "Tant va pot a eve qu'il brise" ("The pot goes so often to the water that it breaks"). In baseball, the saying is applied when a pitcher throws the same pitch over and over successfully — until the hitter ruins the streak with a hit. The point is that a risk is run when someone continues the same action over and over without change.
There are basically five primary sources of funds in development: corporations, foundations, associations, organizations and individuals. We know from the latest Giving USA data that $335 billion was given in 2013. Every fundraising office in the U.S. struggles each day with various processes such as what prospects to identify, rate, screen, solicit, cultivate and steward to obtain a piece of this pie.
These development officers also struggle with determining what prospects have links to the organization, ability to give to the organization and inclination to give to the organization. The complexity of these many processes can be overwhelming. Because of this, there could be a tendency and comfort in soliciting and securing the same gifts from the same prospects each year.
When I joined a hospital system as chief development officer, I inherited a budget and donors who had been giving to the organization for many years. One particular corporate foundation had given $100,000 a year for several years in a row. There was comfort in the fact that this donor would "always" give to our organization. When I came on board, I certainly began to cultivate the most major donors in terms of cumulative dollars given, largest gift given, most recent gift given and number of gifts given over time. I focused energy on building a relationship with this long-term foundation donor.
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 email@example.com or 317-224-1029.