It can be easy for fundraisers to slip into an attitude of complacency. The daily grind of reaching out to donors to ask for their support can become mundane and taxing. After time, we can lose our edge and enter into autopilot. I have seen this in fundraisers and nonprofit leaders of all stripes; in fact, I find myself “going through the motions” from time to time.
This morning I learned a lesson from Danny, the man who shines my shoes at my home airport in Minneapolis about how to combat this complacency. Danny owns the stand next to the Dunkin Donuts in the “mall” of the main terminal and several other stands at the airport. You can find him next to Dunkin throughout the work week smiling, laughing, and expertly shining shoes. He approaches his regulars like friends. It’s no wonder he is known as the “Mayor of the Main Mall.”
Just this morning, I was walking by Danny’s stand and waved to him and said “good morning.” Since my shoes were shined by him last week, they didn’t need another one. However, upon seeing me, Danny insisted on providing a free “dust off” with no tip accepted. I hesitated, but he insisted. So, I got up in the chair, and he diligently cleaned my shoes, applied a coat of polish, and then buffed it out. At some point, I called him on it. “Wait a second Danny, that sure looks like a shine to me.” Danny smiled and told me, “you gotta put some polish on it if it is going to shine…I can’t let you leave this stand without great looking shoes.”
Despite the gravity of boredom in highly repetitive job, Danny chooses to find joy. That joy and passion that Danny exhibits is contagious; it is also what makes his shoe shine stand the best operation at MSP. I have heard him say several times, “You gotta make the day, or the day will make you.” His grateful heart keeps him from the complacency.
Danny’s engaging customer service approach and grateful heart is something every fundraiser can learn from. Today, I didn’t need a shine, but the Mayor was going to take care of me anyway. I have a client right now with a major donor who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and not long to live. After attempts to connect, it has become clear the timing is not right to ask for a gift. The donor’s mind is not in that place. Like Danny, my client has not taken no for an answer. The attitude has been, “no gift, no problem. How can I pray for you in this season?” The love my client has displayed has been beautiful and a testament to a heart in the right place.
At the end of the day, we can’t forget that fundraising is one ministry tool of many. It is pastoral work by nature because it involves encouraging others to act in faith. While our work involves money, money is not the point. Service, ministry, compassion, impact, joy, and ultimately love is the point. Reminder: philanthropy literally means “love of humankind”. When we get these principles and truly serve and love our donors, we reap numerous benefits: donor’s feel cared for and loved, we are find joy in our work, our students/residents/patients/clients are served at higher levels…and yes…our ministries raise more money. If you are ever in the Minneapolis airport, stop in to see the Mayor for a quick master class on these principles (and a well shined pair of shoes).
Has your fundraising program lacked joy lately? Does it need a “Dust Off”? Or even a Shine? Hank Rosso once defined fundraising as “the art of teaching donors the joy of giving.” Contact us today to for help bringing the ministry and joy back into fundraising.