Don't Be a Fundraising Tourist
I recently learned that the number of Americans touring Europe this summer might be at an all-time high. The strong dollar and natural American wanderlust I’m sure are contributors to this prediction.
Thousands of people will be viewing the landmarks, cuisine and customs of the European continent from the controlled environment and safety of the tour bus with preplanned stops. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium!
We also are seeing a lot of fundraising "tourism" these days. You know—the drive-by attempts at raising money.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun being a tourist. It’s about being entertained. It’s about feeling as though you’re "really" in the experience. When you’re seeking to raise serious resources for serious causes just cruising by doesn’t cut it, however.
These days there is a never-ending avalanche of pitches for fundraising courses, tools and remedies of all kinds, which claim to put your fundraising program on the glide path to success. I liken this to the theme park for fundraising.
Back in the bad, old days, these siren songs arrived with the day’s mail or a phone call from a sales agent. On those special occasions when we attended a conference, the exhibition hall was the professional equivalent of the carnival midway.
With the advent of the wired world, it’s gone big time. Now success is available with the click of the mouse. Or is it?
Everyone likes to see new things, to sample new foods and to meet new people. That’s good as far as it goes.
I always enjoy seeing what new techniques and tools are out there. I even come across novel ideas from time to time. I, too, enjoy sampling.
The reality is—nothing much has changed. It’s just the delivery.
When I was in Yale, I had a professor remark once that there has been nothing fundamentally new in the world since the Ancient Greeks—technology not withstanding. In the intervening time since my collegiate experience, I’ve come to see the wisdom in that statement.
Transformation still happens the old-fashioned way. Organizations are transformed and donors’ lives are fulfilled through serious engagement and persistence, coupled with a deep-felt willingness to change.
That’s when you get out of the tour bus and decide to live in the new country for a while. It’s a little uncomfortable—and definitely unfamiliar—at first. That’s when you’re willing to "go native" and see what really makes another "place"—when you’re willing to suspend judgment.
Don’t you just love it when a nonprofit group claims that "we’re different" as a sort of exemption that the rules don’t apply to them even as they never, ever go beyond their comfort zone of mediocrity?
In fundraising, getting out of the bus means taking on the real obstacles to success—attitudes and mindset—be they organizational or individual.
How do we engage our donors in an authentic way—realizing that it’s much more about them than us? Do we really believe it when we tell ourselves that fundraising isn’t about the money? Or, are we just sampling the hot new trend of "relationship fundraising"?
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles™ is "Donors are the Drivers®." If we’re serious about tapping the power of philanthropy for our cause, we’ll internalize this principle—not merely give lip service to it.
Call it arrogant, but I’ve reached the point where I don’t have much time for the perennial fundraising tourist. I fired a client recently for just that. These folks have incredible fundraising potential but never would take the step of getting out of the bus and engaging the locals, developing new habits, or feeling downright uncomfortable—for a time.
I attended meeting after meeting and conducted coaching after coaching only to see the same nods and the same inaction. Finally, I told the executive, he was wasting the organization’s money and my time—both valuable resources. He didn’t much like it. But he didn’t dispute it.
That’s because he knew they’re really only comfortable talking about change, not actually making it. They love being tourists. It gives them the feeling they’re making progress without any of the messy parts.
Does your organization really want sustained fundraising success? Does it really want the transformative power that ongoing sufficient revenue brings? Does your organization really live its mission statement?
Or, are you just a tourist—a nonprofit feel-good who dispenses with the bother?
Securing sustained fundraising success, which transforms both organizations and the communities they serve isn’t the Sunday afternoon drive. It’s the endurance run—with a lot of challenges along the way.
Funny thing. Fundraising success—real, sustained success—is available to any organization that earnestly desires it and is willing to put in the effort it takes to achieve it. That’s any organization.
The Eight Principles™ is a discovery—not an invention. You learn the unspoken rules that never change. No amount of tourism ever discovers the heart and soul of another place.
If you’re willing to adopt the participant’s lens and roll your sleeves up, you will succeed.
It doesn’t take buckets of money or legions of staff. It requires persistence and engaging others—not merely cruising by.
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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