Perhaps the greatest fear of any fundraiser is not meeting goal. To compensate for this fear, we often divert our attention to those things which have the least impact upon that goal. Truly ironic, but an obsession with trivia can, in a perverse sort of way, give us comfort by actually lowering our expectations. So what is this “trivia” on which we obsess?
Most of us are much more comfortable with the process of something—the routine actions—than the paradigm—the mental construct that gives those recipes meaning. Such is case in fundraising. Wear the right clothes, host the prospective donor at the right restaurant, get the colors in the brochure exact, fold the letter just right. With the advent of social media for communicating and building awareness, there’s a whole new category of details to obsess over.
Not that any of these things are in and of themselves meaningless but they pale in importance to those things that truly provide for scale in fundraising. What could be more important than mastering the silver bullet of social media, you say. For starters, prospective investors will quickly forget how you reached out to them if you had nothing lasting or significant to say when you did.
Donors want outcomes and effectiveness in the charitable organizations they support. They want to see changed lives and they want the personal fulfillment that only participation in something bigger than themselves will provide.
So before you seek comfort in a lower fundraising goal because the details weren’t just right, remember that donors want substance over the “cool” or “polished.” Execute and show significance—these are the elements of success.
Larry C. Johnson
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