Fundraising Reflections From the Ski Slopes
I recently partook of some pre-spring skiing. As I was heading down the slopes, I was thinking about some parallels between skiing and fundraising. "It's all downhill from here" is a saying that means that the hard part is over, but for fundraisers, it can often seem we're moving from one "emergency" to the next instead of enjoying the smoother ride and keeping the exhilaration alive. But as is true with skiing, some simple steps can make the journey more enjoyable.
Go with what you get. The great part of spring skiing is that it's warmer and sunny. The not-so-great part is that there may or may not be much snow. This year, while the East Coast was buried by Ol' Man Winter, parts of the West were overlooked—including the ski resort we visited. In fundraising, we often have to settle for less than ideal conditions. The story for the newsletter lead isn't as exciting as we wanted, the only photos are low-resolution, the preferred venue for our event is already booked, the donor we hoped to visit to discuss funding a new venture is on an extended vacation … When there's really no other choice, determine to work with what you have. You may find some unexpected positives as a result.
Know your ability. On ski slopes, a color marking system tells you the difficulty level; it also helps that the names of the ski runs are often loud hints—for example, it's pretty clear to me, an intermediate skier, that I should avoid "Widowmaker" and "Last Stand." But in fundraising, we often don't get these clear signals. While it's tempting to want to "do it all" or at least try to outdo another nonprofit organization, taking on too much may result in a hard fall. Build on the solid fundraising that you know how to do, and phase in new strategies with careful planning and any necessary research or learning you need to do before you jump in.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.