Mastery Versus Information Overload: How Are Smart Fundraisers Coping?
I remember my first fundraising job like it was yesterday.
I was a little fish in a big pond. I felt very overwhelmed with it all, especially in the beginning. Working for a grantmaking foundation versus working for an all-volunteer nonprofit meant that I went from:
- Plush offices ... to a desk in the hallway, shared with a volunteer
- Seamless technology ... to printers that seized up whenever I tried to print more than 50 pages
- A generous education allowance ... to paying out of pocket for books and training.
And, because of the simple reason that I had read hundreds of grant proposals, I had the audacity to think that I knew something about fundraising.
I was in for a rude awakening, and that’s exactly what I got. It took me all of two weeks to realize that in reality, I didn’t have a clue. And I had six weeks to pull together my first fundraising direct mail appeal. When I searched for information, there wasn’t very much to be found online (keep in mind, this was in 2000).
You don’t face that problem, do you? These days, there’s more content available online than ever before, and it’s growing every day. And along with all that free content has come overwhelming and serious information overload. That overload, rather than empowering you, can actually make it hard to master anything.
Information overload affects novice fundraisers and seasoned professionals alike. So how does one deal?
Mastery is your friend. Your best bet for becoming successful is by mastering the fundamentals that align with your fundraising goals. Yep, you can go to all the conferences and free webinars online — but if you’re not intentional, you’re going to get overwhelmed and become paralyzed. Establish some serious goals, and they’ll be your lifesaver in this crazy, overwhelming “world of free.”
Wanting to learn more (“Hey, have you seen this new social media tool?” ... ”So and so is raising TONS of money on Facebook. We need to figure out how”) when you haven’t yet mastered the fundamentals is a huge reason why you stay stuck right where you are—and stressed.
Remember, knowledge is not power. If it was, anyone with a skill for googling would be successful. It’s what you do with what you know—how you apply it to your donors and how you implement—that will truly determine your success.
Mastery is a new form of learning. I challenge you to adopt it. So, how can you get started?
- Turn off the noise. If you’re used to checking your email or getting lost online every morning, turn it off. The Internet is great ... but it can also be a major time-suck (and don’t even get me started on Facebook). Being free of distractions is the best way, here.
- Start small. Pick just one or two new skills to learn at a time, and break down that skill (or skills) into a manageable goal. You want to increase the average gift for your next mailing or email campaign? Think about a reading a book or completing a course in copywriting.
- Tweak and adjust your course along the way. It’s not easy to remain rigid in a rapid-paced, changing world. And why should you have to be? Allow yourself some wiggle room, and be kind to yourself.
- Think about teaching your new skill to others. What have you learned about a particular skill—even if it’s an easier way to mail merge—that you could pass on? Sharing valuable information can mean a return in valuable information.
- Be patient. You won’t master copywriting, or surveying, or creating the perfect donor online donation experience overnight. Tweak, tweak and tweak some more.
- Be intentional. What you’re studying should always be congruent with your marketing and development plan. You won’t be able to implement it if the information has no bearing whatsoever on what you’re doing and the goals you’re trying to achieve.
A wise saying goes: “Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”
Keep on practicing—and keep on IMPLEMENTING!
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.