Fundraising Is Not ...
Fundraising is not for the narcissistic
If your mantra is, "It's all about me," fundraising is something you may want to avoid. In fundraising, the mantra is more like, "I've seen the target audience, and it's not me." Successful fundraisers realize honest communication (visually and in words) in a way that makes the recipient of the communication relate to the message is what matters — not whether or not you like it.
Fundraising is not for the anti-social
Fundraising is all about people — connecting people to causes they believe in enough to support with their money and often even their time. No matter how frustrated we become, we have to fight against thinking of our donors as a necessary evil. They are our organizations' lifeblood; without them, any progress on mission accomplishment would be impossible.
Fundraising is not demeaning
When someone asks what you do, stand tall and be proud. So much of the good that has been accomplished in the world and is taking place today is because a fundraiser asked someone to support that cause. We can't demand a worldwide "Be nice to your fundraiser" day or expect Hallmark to develop a line of cards to honor your favorite fundraiser. But while "fundraiser" doesn't usually make the list of the most respected professions, it is an important behind-the-scenes support to some of the most highly respected positions: firefighters, doctors, nurses, scientists, military officers and teachers.
Fundraising is not stagnant
What's working today may be outdated in five or 10 years. This old dog has been a fundraiser long enough to remember some things we used to do that seem actually humorous now. And, I suspect, the same will be true when the new, young fundraisers look back in 10 or 20 years on tried-and-true fundraising practices of the second decade of the 21st century. What I've learned over the years is never stop learning. While the latest big idea may not make sense for cost-effective fundraising today, you never know what will become the sharpest arrow in your quiver in a year or two. So stay current, construct careful tests, analyze everything by the numbers and not just your gut, pick yourself up and try something else when your latest effort flops, and remain flexible. Those are the fundraisers who will be making a difference in the next decade, regardless of what generation they were born into.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.