The Rush of a Good Crisis!
We all love a good crisis. Don’t we?
No, you say? What did you do the last time you passed a traffic jam on the opposite side of the expressway? Did you slow down and rubberneck to check it out? What about that fire that you just happened to drive by? Did you park, get out and watch?
There’s something very exhilarating about being "in the moment." Although we complain about there being too many fires to put out (no pun intended), being in the midst of a crisis—and solving it, even at the last minute—can give us a real sense of purpose.
So it is with many organizations’ fundraising programs. They’re built on crisis. Crisis needs. Crisis preparation. Crisis execution. Well, it does work, doesn’t it? Sort of.
Real urgency—or the perception of it—can deliver results, at least once or even a few times. Not that there isn’t the occasional real, unplanned crisis. You know, the ones you can’t predict—like an earthquake or tsunami. These are rare, however.
Instead of responding to the manufactured crisis of today, what would have happened if you used that time in building something important for tomorrow? If you focus on what’s truly important now—rather than the merely urgent—you’ll avoid not only the burnout associated with crises of the urgent but also prevent more of the "urgent" in the future. That’s as in raising more money for far longer periods of time. Money that’s here tomorrow as well as today. Bottom line—you’ll do more good for more people. A lot more.
The idea of focusing on the important while deflecting the urgent isn’t unique. No less than the likes of Stephen Covey and Seth Godin proclaim the virtue of this approach. So, how does this work itself out in the fundraising arena?
Principle 8 of The Eight Principles™ is "Invest, Integrate & Evaluate™". This is the principle of establishing your course—and maintaining it. Despite the occasional gale, which may blow your way.
First, you’ll need a plan—an annual operating plan. That plan must be owned by everyone in the organization—staff and volunteer. You’ll need to execute your plan. That’s as in follow it closely, deflecting the "urgent" as much as possible.
Second, you’ll need to focus on results that are one, two—even three years hence. Not those you’re looking for in the next 30 days. This alone excludes many, many vehicles of fundraising—those that are only for the moment.
Don’t get me wrong. An immediate drive for funds has its place. When a real crisis presents itself, you go into the crisis mode. That’s not very often, however. And most of those are of the natural disaster variety.
Third, you need to get over any fixation you may have with "cash." You know, the "received in the last month or quarter” variety. Looking at cash received to predict your fundraising future is like looking at the road you’ve just traveled and thinking it will be an exact reflection of what’s ahead.
That number is irrelevant to everyone except your cost accountant. It’s absolutely irrelevant from a fundraising perspective. There are lots of very important fundraising metrics from donor renewal rates to average gift sizes, but cash received just doesn’t cut it when it comes to designing and evaluating a fundraising program from which you want sustained revenue and growth.
Finally, you’ll need real donors. Not merely responders. Donors are those investors who are invested in your cause—your values. That’s because your values are theirs. Responders are those folks who may show up for a quid pro quo at a gala or peer event. They’re fine for what they provide, but don’t count on them when the going gets rough or unpopular.
Many fundraising programs are just beginning to kick into gear for the year. Perhaps that’s yours. You have plenty of time to craft a plan that works.
Planning for contingencies is just fine. Just make sure you’re not planning for the crisis. Regardless of the adrenaline rush.
Success is waiting. Go out and find it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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