Your next big fundraising breakthrough…

September 12, 2015

In conversations I have everyday with clients, members, subscribers, consultants, and our Basics & More™ course participants, I get the sense that everyone is searching for that big breakthrough. That shining moment when their fundraising becomes crystal clear. That flash of inspiration when they know exactly what to do next. They’re waiting for something unexpected and monumental to happen.

Author, Gregg Levoy, wrote:

“Our lives are measured out … not in the grand sweeps but in the small gestures. The great breakthroughs in our lives generally happen only as a result of the accumulation of innumerable small steps and minor achievements. We’re called to reach out to someone, to pick up an odd book on the library shelf, to sign up for a class even though we’re convinced we don’t have the time or money, to go to our desks each day, to turn left instead of right.

These are the fire drills for our bigger calls.”

And yet when you’re buried in the day to day minutiae of what often constitutes the work of a nonprofit fundraiser, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. The funny thing is, when I probe further in my conversations, I’m hearing about some pretty incredible day-to-day successes. That first $250,000 gift. The purchase, installation and education involving a new donor database. The doubling, and even tripling of the year-end appeal results. The donor who sent in a $1,000 check…in response to a thank you letter.

And this, a note I received recently from Julia Koch of Hope Project USA, a participant in a recent Basics & More™ course:

“The Major Gifts fundraising class is helping so much. It’s helping me clarify what we need to do. The timing of taking this class is also a plus as the Board is getting JuliaKready to do strategic planning. What’s definitely helping is having the ED, our program director, and 4 (of 8) board members signed up for the class. Due to timing issues, three of the board members will go through the materials in September.

I was glad to see that, of the 16 suggestions to build a culture of philanthropy, we’re not starting totally from scratch!!!

What we’ve been doing right:

  • We’ve been doing short 10 to 15 minute trainings at our monthly board meetings, which the board has gradually warmed to. I’m looking forward to getting the Andrea Kihlstedt/Andy Robinson book on training the board!
  • My program director is always involved in finding the stories for the appeal letters I write.
  • My program director has been sharing “thank yous” received from clients at board meetings, but I’m thinking it would be better to copy and send them to board members–to keep our mission on their minds between board meetings.

Since starting the Major Gifts Fundraising Class:

  • I’m sending out a link to board members and the ED, mostly weekly, that relate to what we’re learning in the class.
  • Our program director now shares with the board “thank yous” from our clients.
  • We’ve added a mission moment in the board meetings to inspire the board and us about our ministry; we’ve been doing that at staff meetings.
  • I’m hoping that having four board members do the class will help them to understand and encourage all board members to contribute financially.

What I’m looking at doing:

  • Being more strategic in communications to board members to show appreciation (birthday, anniversary, “just because”)
  • I’m hoping to work with my ED to be more strategic about getting to know board members, and I’m hoping he will see the benefit to spending one-on-one time with each of them.
  • As we update our website, I want to add a “share-your-story” page — I love that idea!
  • We instituted a Friday “Good News” email to the board and others, and now we’re looking at how we can step that up to include celebrating every little success more concretely with something fun at board meetings.”

It’s easy to focus on what still remains to be done, and how much more you want to do for the community you serve. There are times when a big breakthrough is at the forefront of your mind. But don’t get lost in all of that, or it can overwhelm you. Instead, understand the value in the work you’ve done, and celebrate it. Never forget to acknowledge those smaller achievements. They can add up to something really extraordinary.

Here’s what you really need to know: When your focus is on leading with gratitude, and building a donor-first development department, you’re always on the right path.  Click to tweet.

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