Several weeks ago I was chatting with a board president of an educational organization over lunch. I’d been brought in for an hour long fundraising training scheduled during the organization’s retreat.
“Well,” he remarked with more than a touch of resignation in his voice, “we really don’t have an easy mission to sell – like cute animals or starving children.”
Hmmmmm …. red flag alert.
Immediately following lunch several of the organization’s students gave a short PowerPoint presentation on a community service project trip they’d taken the previous month.
What utter joy to watch these kids’ faces absolutely light up as photographs of their trip flashed by. For every one of them this trip had been their first time traveling outside of the United States and it was clearly an eye-opening experience for them. And then it was time for questions …
Utter silence from the board members. In fact, a couple of them had left the board room during the kids’ presentation and were outside in the hallway on their cell phones. Not a single question was raised. The students had already clearly been nervous about presenting before the board and now, as none of the members appeared even remotely interested in what they had to say, they looked downright uneasy.
Imagine that … here we were witnessing, first-hand, exactly how this organization was successfully changing lives and yet none of the board members had any questions.
But I had questions. Lots of them. I wanted to know if the kids’ perceptions of poverty had changed … I wanted to know if the trip had affected their plans for the future … always the “foodie” I wanted to know what their favorite foods had been. I asked away and was rewarded with an outpouring of enthusiasm (not to mention some awesome stories) from this terrific group of kids.
Now I’ve got to tell you that this organization’s mission certainly looked like an *easy sell* to me … and, sad to say, they just weren’t paying attention.
Chances are you’ll never encounter that kind of board in your work, but it’s not difficult, in the day-to-day grind of the life of a fundraiser to lose your motivation and, yes, to stop paying attention. How can you practice enthusiasm on a daily basis? How can you remember that you’re literally changing the world – when your daily reality consists of dealing with a database created in excel, or spending a week putting together a grant proposal only to learn that the previous development director neglected to respond to two requests for a report on a grant from 2008?
Enthusiasm is the best habit a fundraiser can have – and to create a habit you’ll need to practice every day. Schedule some enthusiasm time and try these five tips:
- You’ll remember this one – I’ve repeated it often enough. Early on in my career I was fortunate to stumble upon consultant Hildy Gottlieb’s article, The Sound a Thank You Makes. I immediately put her concept into practice and now regularly recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day spent on the phone with donors and volunteers.
- Be sure to schedule half a day a month to spend “in the field” When I worked at a grant-making foundation, one of the biggest highlights was always the opportunity to attend a site visit – to actually see a program that we were funding (or planning to fund) in action. Likewise as a development director I’ve always made it a point to schedule time to spend with the individuals actually doing the important work of the organization. It’s energizing and it puts an entirely new perspective on your work (Always bring along a digital camera and think about picking up a small recorder.)
- Take a board member out to coffee. It’s amazing what you’ll learn when you schedule some time to sit down with your board members one on one. Find out what made them get involved with your organization – and what their view of success is.
- Query your database for – no not for the usual *top donor* listing – but for your twenty most loyal donors. Put together a mailing of packets with a note asking them to pass a packet on to their friends.
- Step outside of your comfort level. How? The nonprofit world can be an insular one. Instead of relegating your training dollars solely to *fundraising* courses, take a motivational workshop or an online marketing course. You’ll be surprised at the advantages!
How do you maintain your enthusiasm on a daily basis?