Writing used to be one of my joys. But lately, writing has begun to feel like a chore. So I’ve decided that I have to start doing more of it.
I know; that seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found over the years that the more I do things, the better I become at doing those things, and—not really a surprise—the more I enjoy doing them. So I’m going to write twice as many blogs a week (ok, so I’m going to twice a week instead of once, but still, it’s a huge growth percentage) and get back to some book projects that have somehow gone underground.
It hasn’t been that I’ve stopped writing, but it seems that it’s all emails and fundraising brochures, proposals and plans. I like doing those (mostly). But it’s just not the same.
Needless to say, this brings my thoughts to fundraising, though it could be anything you have to do—marketing, selling, studying, planning, etc. Success relies a lot on consistency. Things you do in fits and starts never quite jell. You always have to move too far backward before you can the momentum up again.
Fundraising, like friendships, is built on relationships. And relationships require nurturing. It’s no accident that “development” is one of the synonyms for that word.
Successful fundraising means that you are constantly developing relationships—bringing people closer to your organization and mission. And you can’t do that if you neglect a prospective donor for months on end.
One of the more frustrating jobs I had was at a community college where the community truly valued the college. I felt—still feel—that our students could have benefitted hugely from the millions we could have raised. If raising money was something my president valued. He didn’t and he made it very clear to me that fundraising was far, far at the end of everything else I had to do. Only, he told me, when we have a building project do we go out and ask for money.
No matter how fervently I explained, he simply did not believe that you actually get more money by asking more often—as long as you are always connecting the donor’s generosity back to the outcomes of their gift. So every time the institution needs outside money, they have to reinvent the wheel, re-connect with people—many of whom had long moved on.
Consistency has another value: it brings thing closer to your comfort zone. The more you do something, the more familiar it becomes. That makes it both easier to do and more appealing to learn more about. Thirty years of fundraising has certainly taught me that. Just when it starts feeling boring, I find something new, re-discover something old, look at it from a different point of view.
Practice, my mother used to tell me, makes perfect. And while perfection always seems a bit out of reach, it certainly does make you better at whatever it is you are doing.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and build stronger boards. Learn more at her website, http://janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for her free monthly newsletter.