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Good Fundraising–bad fundraising

When you get counsel on how to fundraise—from colleagues, friends or even a professional consultant—stop and think.  As Agatha Christie once said, “The difficulty with good advice is that it is almost never taken.”  Why?

Most nonprofit leadership is remarkably risk-adverse.  Never is this fear of being “different” more on display than in their efforts in fundraising.  Stick with the tried and true (what we think is effective).  Focus only on what you can see and that which generates immediate, concrete results.  I find it a deep irony that those among us who advocate for a better world and better communities and urge others to adopt a fundamentally new viewpoint on society are often devoutly rigid and short-term in their business planning.

What’s true in life is also true in fundraising.  If it’s comfortable; if it’s what you see others doing, it if doesn’t challenge you or cause you discomfort, you can be sure that it isn’t providing the philanthropic revenue growth that you believe you deserve—and that you can achieve.

Those that encourage you to play it safe, to remain with the status quo—these good souls give you advice that is almost always dead wrong.  Philanthropy is not static.  To the contrary, it is very elastic.  Money is left on the table every day.  Why not reach out and claim it?  In the words of Seth Godin, “discern useful good advice, so you don’t insulate yourself in the bubble of the self-deluded.  Self-validation is a killer—for organizations as well as individuals.

Think about that as you make your fundraising plans for 2013.  Will you simply repeat your efforts of last year?  Will you continue making the same, unquestioned assumptions?  Or—will you look afresh as to what is truly possible and reach out and claim it?  Principle 8 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is “Invest, Integrate and Evaluate™.”  Never forget the “evaluate.”

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