Passion: The Game-Changing Ingredient
Last weekend I attended a gala for a nonprofit organization. Yes, I know — events are the football fundraising critics kick around. Studies have shown that many net little or no money, and they can suck the life out of staff and volunteers.
But the reality is that there are innumerable events taking place every week, hosted by one nonprofit or another. A-Thons, dinners, concerts, garage sales and more are prevalent, and many nonprofits rely on them for operating revenue. So I try to attend a few every year and see what's working (and sometimes, what's not).
And last weekend, I was reminded about an important truth in fundraising as I watched the evening's program unfurl and listened closely to the ask: You can't fake passion .
In this case, there was passion at every turn. A donor spoke of the absolute joy she has found in generously supporting the cause. A board member brought tears to many eyes as he shared a story. A worker who receives money from the nonprofit for his programs all but jumped up and down recounting what a difference it made.
And the founder could teach a Baptist how to do an altar call. I had to sit on my hands to keep from cashing in my retirement accounts and giving all the proceeds to the cause.
So why is passion so often missing from our fundraising? Why are direct-mail letters and e-appeals flat, personal visits perfunctory, and events boring? I'm sure there are many reasons — this isn't a one-size-fits-all situation — but here are a few things I've observed.
We're too careful
Stop! I am not suggesting sloppy fact-checking, blatant lies or even hyperbole in the name of improving results. But I do think we've gotten too good about saying things in a way that won't offend anyone, and the result is we're no longer communicating passion.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.