The Secret You Know but Do Not Know You Know

There’s a powerful fundraising secret you know. Unfortunately, you probably don’t know you know it. Yet, knowing it is essential to your fundraising and career success. 

While scanning year-end articles, blog posts, and webinar offerings about fundraising, you might be overwhelmed by the huge volume. You might also suspect that all you have to do to become a great fundraising professional is master the numbers and techniques involved in the development process.

Even my recent blog posts have focused on how-to information. However, your fundraising efforts and career are about more than numbers and skills. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you some questions. When you woke up this morning:

  • were you excited to get to the office so you could generate that report your boss asked for?
  • were you thrilled that you’d soon be listening to a webinar about donor retention?
  • were you energized by thoughts of the upcoming staff meeting?

When you accepted the job offer from your current employer, I suspect you weren’t thinking of reports, webinars, and staff meetings. Instead, you were probably thinking about the organization’s mission. You likely thought about how fun it would be to join a great team to help fulfill that mission.

That feeling might now be somewhat buried. You might not think about it much. However, at a deep level, it’s that feeling that probably gets you out of bed and to the office each morning. Passion for your organization’s mission is easy to forget when facing day-to-day demands.

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to reduce our jobs to a set of numbers. How many donors did you acquire? Renew? Upgrade? How many major donor prospects did you visit? How many of those prospects became major donors? How long does it take to send out a thank-you letter? How much money did you raise this year? You get the idea. It’s easy to get caught up in the process and begin to lose sight of what is most important.

You will never be truly effective unless you constantly remind yourself of why you really do what you do. You won’t be able to inspire prospects to give, and you’ll likely experience premature burnout.

So, if you want to more effectively inspire people to give and if you wish to have greater career satisfaction, spend more time focusing on what the money you raise will accomplish. For example:

  • If you work for a university, think of the students who are being educated and prepared to improve the world.
  • If you work for an arts organization, think of how people’s lives are being enriched and their thinking provoked.
  • If you work for a hospital, think of the healthy babies that will be born there and the people who will be healed.

Not long ago, I led a training program for the advancement staff at a social service agency. I began the morning session by asking the group, “Why are we here today?” The staff was somewhat puzzled by the question. They thought the answer rather obvious. After some glances to each other around the room, they began to speak up. “We’re here to learn about planned giving.”

The staff was correct, sort of. The topic of the training involved planned giving. However, at its core, the purpose of the training was not about the differences between CRATs and CRUTs. So, I told them, “Yes, we’ll be talking about planned giving. However, what we’re really here to do is save lives. That’s what the organization’s mission is. The more money we can raise, the more lives that will be saved. Planned giving is simply one way we’ll be able to do that.”

My point for them, my point for you, is that it is essential that we remember and embrace why we really do what we do. If we regularly reignite our passions for our organizations, we’ll be more likely to spread that enthusiasm and inspire more donors. We’ll also be less likely to burnout if we remain truly excited by what our organizations accomplish.

The fundraising secret you know but probably do not know you know is the answer to this question:

What is it about your organization that gets you out of bed and into the office each workday?

Once you’ve answered that question, remember the answer. Embrace it. Share it. If you do, I bet you’ll be a more inspirational fundraising professional, and that you’ll enjoy your job a great deal more.

Finally, however you choose to celebrate, I wish you and yours a season full of joy, love, and good health!

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

10 Comments to “The Secret You Know but Do Not Know You Know”

  1. Great commentary, as always. For NPO’s going back to the mission statement as your own personal reason for being with the organization, and then stating it in the most inspiring and moving ways to inspire and move donors to give.

    • Steve, thank you for your kind comment. At this crunch time of year, it’s easy for fundraisers to focus more on counting dollars than inspiring donors. While counting is certainly important, the fact is there won’t be much to count without inspired donors.

  2. Thanks Michael,

    At this “end of year crunch” time it’s uplifting to be reminded why we are doing what we do. I once again shared your wisdom with our entire Development Team. This week is SO focused on numbers, we need to remember that it is caring individuals who choose to give to us because of our mission, not because it’s almost December 31st!

    Watching the last candle burning on the last night of Hannukah my thoughts went to what may or may not occur between that last smoky wisp and lighting of the Shamus on the first night of Hannukah 2018. May we all find joy in our missions and help others to embrace the joy of giving.

    Happy New Year.

    • Patti, thank you for sharing your thoughts and letting me know that my post resonated with you. I wish you the best in the closing days of 2017. I hope that 2018 is a year of great inspiration (and numbers) for you!

  3. This is great advice, Michael. I always tell fundraisers that the number one key to success is passion. If you don’t have passion for the mission, you can’t sell it. If you do, it’s contagious.

    • Claire, thank you for sharing your insight. Passion is definitely contagious and will inspire colleagues, board members, and donors. Sadly, the converse is also true. A lack of passion is also contagious and, therefore, dangerous to an organization.

  4. Thank you Michael for just what we need at the end of the year. Finding a way to keep our purpose for why we do what we do at the forefront can be challenging – but as you point out, it is the most important part of what we do.

    I hope that 2018 brings you and Lisa much happiness and good health. Thanks for continuing your blog!

  5. Michael, I forwarded this piece to our board as a starting point for our upcoming board retreat. thanks

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