Labor Day is behind us, football has begun, and the time for actual work is now. Congrats, friends, it is fundraising season once again! I hope your shop is ready, with an actionable fundraising plan.
Traveling to meet a new client, I am always interested in the first few minutes walking into the office. What is the energy? There is an almost immediate feel to unhappy fundraising offices, and my first instinct usually proves true, even months later. Either the culture is there, and the team is functional and productive, or, too often, the fundraising office is guilt of one (or all seven) of the these Fundraising Sins. Which ones do you recognize in your shop?
Bad Fundraising Shops Tend to Be:
- Quiet: This is the biggest indicator of fundraising potential. Happy fundraising shops are lively places, with noise, phones ringing, people talking to each other and on the phone, and a general din of life. Staff showing up with the new baby, or the new puppy. Show me a quiet fundraising office, and I will easily predict a team of low producers, unengaged with each other and the community. Be Not Quiet.
- Slothful: Quiet’s twin bro is Sloth, and it is a fundraising killer. If staff are hanging out at their desks more often that not, we have a real problem. I am patient and tolerant, willing to invest in most. But laziness is not ever acceptable. Be Not Slothful.
- Internally Focused. When I meet with staff members for the first time I tend to ask, “How are you spending your days?” If more than 20% of the work is engaged in internal committees, task forces, planning groups, and related nonsense, we have a fundraising problem. Fundraising shops must be, by necessity, focused towards the community and engaging donors and prospects. How much time are you spending with fellow colleagues on internal business? Look out the Window.
- Somber. Show me a central fundraising office at a University, and I predict a no fun having place with lots of serious looking people in black suits. Ours is a serious business. Being so damn serious 100% of the time makes for a grim work week. No fun fundraisers tend to talk a lot about the Donor, but never call any, and Philanthropy rather than Fundraising. Be Not Somber.
- Lacking a Sense of Humor. This is my least favorite sin of junky fundraising shops. I can teach someone to fundraising, and coach teams to work better as a group and focus outwardly. But if a team lacks a sense of humor, if they cannot be playful with one another and appreciative of the absurdity of existence, there is almost nothing to be done. The one precondition to fundraising success is a joyful heart. Forget it if you are grim and morose. Laugh a little.
- Afraid. More than a lack of skill or knowledge, fear is what keeps us from achievement in life, work and fundraising. Fear of failure for many, but for others feel of success, or fear of everything. How does this manifest? Fear of talking to donors. Fear of asking for money. Fear of change and best effort. Be Not Afraid.
- Eating lunch at the Desk. Sin comes in all forms. Show me your office’s break room. Let’s open the refrigerator together. Is it full of leftovers and lunch sacks? Don’t do it. The best performing teams are out and about, especially at lunch. Getting after the $5,000 gifts, meeting prospects and donors where they live (and eat). If you don’t have a lunch appointment, at least get out for a walk at lunch to get some exercise. Get away from the excel spreadsheets and the newsletter copy. Don’t eat your lunch at your desk.
Happy Fundraising. Go change the world.