What Moments in Fundraising Matter Most?
I have known for many years that nonprofit professionals are in a net-revenue results business. Besides treasure, we always are looking for time and talent. There is constant pressure to perform and achieve goals.
One of the fundraising programs I am responsible for directing did not make its Christmas financial goal in 2015. We ended the drive at 91 percent of goal. I have five months to make up the overall donation line difference. Goal achievement constantly weighs upon your mind in this business.
Certain aspects of the annual-gifts program remain primarily constant each year. Major and planned gifts are variable in scope. You can win the Super Bowl in one fiscal year and finish last in your division the next. One day, when I hang up my uniform, I will not miss the joyful sounds of the finance representatives challenging the weekly program performance.
That said, your longevity in your job depends upon consistent success. Think about what I just said when you deal with constant staff turnover, weak boards and uneven administrative support. It makes your job even harder.
Besides the obvious job-performance factors, you do engage with many interesting people. Your donors and prospects can provide moments in your life that you relish.
I read the paper this morning and learned that a business executive I had worked with had passed away. I immediately prayed for him and his family. Then, I smiled and remembered the many annual visits I had in his office. I loved our conversations. He loved and totally supported the arts. Since I was not in the arts realm, I knew I would never receive a gift from to him to my charity, but I loved these visits so much I didn’t care.
But what I did receive was his gift of wisdom. He told me how he founded a company from scratch and grew it to a $1 billion national entity. He told me always to think four steps ahead in my planning. I went into these meetings with my materials and left with several pages of notes for life.
I already miss him. He provided moments for me to enjoy. It is wonderful when you sense both parties enjoy each other.
Recently, I was asked to make a presentation to a local bank that supported my organization. The president and I go way back. He and several members of his team recently visited one of our facilities. The facility was a center for abused men, women and children. If you visit this special place, you’ll see that our staff moves heaven and earth to help more than 125 people in dire need every night. That emotional visit triggered the president’s request to have me present to his executive team about our total needs in the community.
While I had a PowerPoint of facts behind me, I told stories of how my organization is resource poor but strong in caring and supporting others in need. I asked my associate to go with me to also speak and engage with the group.
After I spoke, I thanked the group and walked out of the door. About five seconds later, a female bank executive burst through the same door crying uncontrollably. As I hugged her, she told me that several years earlier she and her child stayed in our facility. As tears filled my eyes, I thought, “This is a moment that matters.” Donors made our center possible. My hug and appreciation for her was for our donors. I am just the messenger and bridge-builder. That is why in am in this business.
When I returned to the office, I started writing down the moments that mattered in my long career in philanthropy. I have been blessed to have many stories of when donors—for the many places I have represented—made an impact on others through their donations.
The greatest moments are when donors can feel and see the emotions of others touched by their generosity. Try to make that happen and you will feel a sense of accomplishment far beyond obtaining a fiscal-year donation goal on paper.
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.