~Numerous Jedi Masters have translated this post from Yoda’s unique way of speaking to improve reading ease.~
Small spoiler alert, friends, if you have not seen new Star Wars movie.
Many watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens and wondered
why at the end, R2-D2 suddenly awakens and has the answer to the problem. The challenge they have been working on for so long magically has a solution which directs them to their final destination. This appears to come out of nowhere and had no real explanation.
If Star Wars is not your thing (Yoda forgives you), perhaps you remember how the Wicked Witch of the West is melted with water in the Wizard of Oz? Or how Superman saves Lois Lane by circling the Earth fast enough to reverse its rotation and turn back time, hrrm?
This, friends, is a Stardust Solution. A Deus Ex Machina. An answer which drops from the sky. A magic bullet. An easy way out. But these examples are from movies. This does not happen in real life. It does not happen in fundraising.
Have you heard these words before, from others or in your own thoughts?
- “Let’s make a video go viral”
- “We just need our own Ice Bucket challenge”
- “If we just get this celebrity to endorse our cause…”
- “How do we get a big story in the paper to get a lot of quick attention?”
- “Just hire a ‘rainmaker’ fundraiser to bring in larger gifts”
- “We can easily implement a Major Gifts and Planned Giving program to raise more money”
- “Let’s produce a compelling report and get everyone to read it”
Not one person, one strategy, one campaign, one report will lead to success. These ideas are either not easy to make happen or just not true. If they were successful, it would be because they worked together with a number of other factors founded in solid fundraising foundations, with a lot of hard work and perhaps some luck.
Nothing ever just happens. Fundraising is the result of strategic thinking, hard work, creativity and a genuine concern for donor interests and creating community change. You succeed because of many reasons. When you go for the easy win, when you go for the quick sale, when you underestimate the effort required to engage donors, you do a disservice to the profession.
To protect yourself and your team from Dark Side fundraising, you must:
- Beware of Stardust Solution language – When you speak words like “all we need is…” or “if we just had…” or “once we get…”, you might be putting too much faith in one path to success.
- Challenge those presenting Stardust Solutions – Whether it is your boss, another fundraiser, or a product vendor or consultant, you must ask the difficult questions, which will take courage, but will keep you on the right path.
- Create plans based on solid fundraising strategy – One of the biggest differences between organisations that succeed in fundraising and those that do not is having a fundraising plan. Having a plan gives you the confidence to not pursue unrealistic ideas.
- Remove your personal thoughts – Invite others to review your plans, ask you tough questions and challenge your assumptions. This will help battle the delusions of believing in a magic solution.
- Remain committed to the core values of fundraising – Take actions which support and enhance the whole field of philanthropy, not just your own organisation. Some Stardust Solutions may harm the perception of fundraising. Having integrity and sound ethics will stop you from doing desperate fundraising where you throw everything into one miracle idea.
There is no such thing as easy fundraising. Success comes from consistent, meaningful, passionate and unique interactions with donors based on understanding them and giving them an opportunity to be changemakers and heroes. This is the Light Side.
Seek easy fundraising without doing the hard work, and you will fail. Instead, seek to enter the hearts and minds of donors, learn what makes fundraising successful, and act with good intentions. This is the real Fundraising Force. And Yoda knows it is in every one of you.
So use it.