Failing to Succeed
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Email me with your particular problem and I’ll arrange a quick consultation, offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
I spoke with Peter last week regarding his organization’s need to grow its donor base.
We all know the drill. Launch an aggressive donor acquisition program. Direct mail, awareness events, donor referral, board and volunteer networking. It all works. It’s all good.
That wasn’t Peter’s concern.
You see, like a lot of us in the nonprofit sector, we are very passionate about what we do. And justly so. Passion is necessary.
Passion is the fuel that gets us over the tough times. Having the vision is what we must have if we’re going to be successful in creating social impact. But. There’s a dark side. Passion can blind us. It can close our ears and cause us to be unaware of what our friends and supporters are telling us. Danger is present when we even think about taking our own press releases to heart. This sort of myopia is very common.
But—that’s not where I’m going with this.
You see, Peter has healthy self-awareness. He listens to his supporters. He thanks his donors. He knows he needs them as partners, not simply as “funders.” How I loathe that word!
Peter’s Achilles is he cares for his supporters and would-be donors too much.
You read it right.
He just wants everyone to take his message to heart. He wants everyone to be on board.
That’s simply not possible. It never will be, no matter how important, how urgent, how worthy. It just won’t.
Not converting everyone to give is a failure. Expect to fail.
Let’s face it, not everyone is going to embrace our vision—or even like us.
The seasoned fundraisers among us can tell you what the conventional success-to-failure ratios are. When spoken, there aren’t many who would attempt to refute them. For direct mail, it’s about 1 percent to 5 percent “yes” for non-donors. For asset (some say “major”) giving it’s generally one in three.
So, why do so many of us act as though these don’t operate on us? What should we do?
We shouldn’t do what Peter was unfortunately doing. Spending inordinate amounts of time and money trying to get particular potential donors in the fold. Not only was he being imprudent with resources, he was actually missing out on many who would support him.
We’ve all done this. It’s the potentially significant donor whose support could transform our program. We just can’t imagine her not saying “yes” if we just keep trying.
We have to fail to succeed. Try that line at your next board meeting. When you do, let me know the response. I’m sure you’ll get one. Any dozers will certainly awake.
I extend my earnest thanks to Peter for reaching out. I’ve given him some guidance that will get him off on the right foot. We’ve agreed to touch base after his next board meeting.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me, and I’ll arrange a brief consult, providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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