YOU are the reason for your results

Today I want to share what I think is the single most important ingredient for fundraising success. This ingredient can make it, or break it. It’s the multiplier effect. It’s the most powerful element in your fundraising program. Every fundraising program has at least one, some have more, but nobody seems to have enough. Some are good. Some are considered good, but are in fact not.

You’ve guessed it. I’m talking about The Fundraiser. Yes, you.

When I asked my fundraising friends on Facebook what they thought the most important ingredient would be I got back a whole range of answers. Interestingly enough many of them were characteristics and skills a fundraiser should have: passion for the cause, satisfaction in making a difference, a profound love for and knowledge of our donors, persistence, honesty and authenticity, crazy about numbers, a true leader, an inspiring storyteller and an inquisitive listener.

Together they crowd sourced the beginning of an ideal job profile and confirmed my own answer.

Everything you can think of in your fundraising program is driven or influenced by The Fundraiser. We make strategic and operational decisions that drive our program and influence our results. I hope to convince everyone that fundraisers are by far the biggest reason for fundraising results. Good and bad results.

To give away the conclusion: if you are a great fundraiser there is no excuse not to have a great fundraising program. On the other side, if you don’t have great results, you need to up your game…

Normally, if fundraising results are good, the fundraiser gets all the credit. However, bad fundraising results are often not attributed to the fundraiser, but to external factors. Often an excuse is around the corner: the economic crisis, the crowded market or a sleeping board to name a few. That’s just wrong. Although obviously they have an impact, the impact of such external reasons, under average circumstances, is often exaggerated.

When talking to fellow blogger Charlie Hulme about this topic he pointed me towards the ‘Great Fundraising’ report. It highlighted a culture of apathy:

“In a number of cases, for example, the organization had been failing to meet its fundraising targets for several years and thus it was now assumed that the target would not be met and that it was acceptable not to meet it.” (Sargeant and Shang 2013, p.14) 

Charlie went on: “For me it’s an attitude; when isn’t there an economic ‘crisis’, when isn’t the market ‘crowded’? My job is to restlessly search for what can I do differently.” Very well put.

The economic crisis is a great example.

“Because of the bad economy it’s impossible to raise more funds. Stock markets go down, housing prices plummet and consumers trust is almost gone. I don’t think we’ll reach our goals.“

Not true. If you are a good fundraiser, you will raise more funds for your cause. You are in the driver’s seat. You might need to adapt, but that’s very healthy, it keeps you sharp. Don’t hide behind the economy. Don’t hide behind your market research. You can’t change the economy, but you can adapt your program to raise the funds you need. YOU are the reason for your results.

A crowded market is also often mentioned to describe the difficult times ahead.

“The very saturated market we operate in creates a highly negative environment to raise funds in. Every year it gets more difficult, because there are so many organizations raise funds from the same group of people.”

Not true. Sure, there is competition, but I can also think of plenty pro arguments that the maturity of a market creates a positive environment for your fundraising. Why would you include it in your annual plans? Market information presented like this appears to be the reason for your (future) failing results, which it’s not.

The fundraising market is only one of the many variables that influence the outcome of your fundraising. Other variables are weighing in much more. If you want to give reasons for fundraising programs to fail (or succeed for that matter) you have to review the complete program. Either way, the fundraiser plays a very big role.

Do you have a board or management team that doesn’t want to play ball?

“They couldn’t care less to show up for a donor event. They are afraid of talking to a prospective major donor. We better stop this program, because without them we can’t raise any major gifts.”

Not true. It’s your role to convince them. If you are a good fundraiser you can overcome such an attitude and change it for the better. Involve them in the development of your program. Educate them. Train them. Give them a role. Share your victories. Celebrate successes and discuss the challenges you are facing. Don’t assume they are against you. Lack of knowledge about fundraising often creates non-communication. Fear of the unknown can be overcome. And YOU are the one to do that.

Fundraisers are powerful human beings with an extraordinary capability to raise funds for the causes we believe in. We should always invest in our knowledge and skills. Strive to be better every day, because with our skills we are able to change the world. Believe in the power we have to influence our results. If we do, we will have to take responsibility less often when results are not as they should be.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below!

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