What can be said about 2016? A look back at another year of Traveling, Consulting, and Writing in the Americas:
The signs for a challenging 2016 were evident in early January, when I was very nearly struck by a fast moving bus in Rochester, NY. With short daylight hours, wide streets, and few downtown residents, there is no more dangerous place for pedestrians than the cities upstate New York. But Rochester has a beautiful river system, ballpark, and the stately old Kodak Building. In January, dodging buses, I wrote about making Incremental Progress in your fundraising program, including making a personal commitment to your job. Decide now for 2017 if you want to stick around. Our industry needs longer tenures.
I have been traveling regularly to Omaha for five years now, including every month in 2016, but only this spring traversed the walking bridge between Nebraska and Iowa. In February my friend and colleague Stef of Heart Project challenged me to a good old Blog Off. After walking across bridges, I questioned the notion of fundraising as a true profession and the pursuit of philanthropic purity. The consensus is that Stef won the contest with her call for organizational clarity in fundraising.
In March I got to spend time in Belize, my 3rd trip to South America in recent years. Belize is a beautiful place with friendly, English speaking faces and good vibes. A vacation gave me time to consider sponsorship and recognition. We cannot easily compete with for profit marketers. Let’s stop trying.
In April I took my first ever helicopter ride, a dazzling trip through the Grand Canyon. It was extraordinary to experience the desert from this vantage point. Seeing that vastness, I contemplated the common void in many fundraising programs, the lack of a dedicated focus on Mid Sized Donors.
In late spring I began working in South Bend, Indiana, home to a beautiful Notre Dame. Walking around a campus booming with philanthropy funded construction, I appreciated the grit and determination of the fundraising professional, full of Love, Humility and Fire.
Early summer included a business trip to one of North America’s great cities, Montreal, where I attended the Opera America conference. I was reminded of the enormous value of conference participation and other professional development in retaining fundraising staff. Send your people to a conference in 2017!
In my travels I’ve visited at least 50 ball parks over the years, and this summer experienced Yankee Stadium for the first time. Creating a culture of excellence, as the Yankees achieved until recently, is about consistent habits and best practices. I examined the good and bad habits of fundraising programs, and again reminded everyone how much I hate fundraising staff eating lunch in the office.
This fall I got to visit Charleston, South Carolina, a shining city full of history and hipsters, living together. During that adventure I wrote about fundraising’s biggest challenge, following up opportunities and promised next steps. We must do better.
Huntsville, Alabama is home to our rocket industry, and is a town full of quiet engineers and scientists doing brilliant things and leading strong non-profits. I was inspired by the power of introverted fundraisers to get the job done. This was my most widely read essay for 2016.
This year I began working in Detroit, a beautiful and resilient city whose story is still being written. Detroit is everything you’ve heard – gritty, determined and inspiring.
I was on 168 airplanes and 1 helicopter this year, split between client destinations in Blue and Red America, including flying over a massive forest fire in the mountains of North Carolina. The haze in the air extended over hundreds of miles in the southeast US.
What can I say about 2016? The Cubs won, but Prince died, along with Gene Wilder, David Bowie, and maybe our democracy. But we do our best, and we love each other, and we move forward.
Together, We work.
Jeremy – – re: maybe our democracy died: as a lifelong Republican and bright red right winger who for the first time in 50 years of voting, voted for the Democratic candidate for President, even I recognize that the Donald is the President elect under our constitution. He’s not what I wanted or you wanted, but our constitution lives so let’s all get over it and wish him success as our 45th President.
Dr Droms: Yes, absolutely the constitutional process has revealed our President, and I too wish America the best. My comment about democracy is meant in a more general way, based on the gaining influence of the very wealthy on our system of government. When the CEO of Exxon is named Secretary of State, and a GOP donor with no qualifications beyond her checkbook named Secretary of Education, this cannot be good for Democracy. Possibly the same sort of thing would have happened with the other candidate, which makes my point. I am a small business owner, and my work is to connect wealth to philanthropic opportunity, but there must be limits for the greater good of that influence. Nothing wrong being wealthy or getting wealthy, but I am deeply troubled for our country with these trends. I accept our elected President, unless it turns out he was in with the Russians, and then I look forward to his impeachment! Let’s noodle this over cigars soon, and agree to disagree on the finer points in the meantime. Merry Christmas!