Four simple (but difficult) questions …

… and one simple answer.

The greatest fundraisers asked and answered only four questions, repeatedly, for a long time. These questions are:

1. How do we make our proposition even better?
2. How do we improve our investment strategies?
3. How do we deliver these through other people?
4. How do we keep ourselves inspired?

We formulated this simple insight after two years of research, trial and observation, with Profs Shang and Sargeant and looking at over three hundred case studies of success around the world.

They are very simple questions. They are also very difficult because they involve three behaviours:

  1. Relentlessness. Good enough is never good enough and you must always question what you have and have and maintain the drive to seek constant improvement and learning.
  2. Irritability. Constantly upping the game makes other people uncomfortable. Raising the bar every month for, say, ten years keeps other people permanently out of their comfort zone. Asking ‘Why?’ one more time (the way to answer question 1) certainly keeps people on their toes.
  3. Courage. To lead in this way exposes one and constant improvement and learning demands innovation and testing which involves a constant state of manage risk.

What we have learned is that the top fundraiser cannot maintain this position of drive and leadership alone. To do so would just be too hard and too lonely to facilitate any workable answer to question (4).

Support from many places is required, but there is one person from whom all the top fundraiser must have unconditional support: the CEO (or General Secretary in many European countries.)

In the most successful organisations, the head of fundraising and the head of the organisation answered questions (1) to (4) together. They did it regularly, perhaps as often as monthly, so that every time the demand for improvement and constant development and drive was issued, it came from a united leadership.

So, if you want to kick start growth and move into the ‘Great Fundraising’ space, then make this your number one new-year resolution for 2016:

‘I will make sure the CEO or Gen Sec is highly educated in fundraising, fundraising leadership and so close to me that we speak with one voice.’

If they already are a bit, then make it more so: the pursuit of excellence is relentless. According to research, the top fundraisers spent 50% of their time managing their organisation internally: to make it more ‘fundraisable.’ Start in this space and stay there …. it can always be better.

Happy Fundraising!

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