Just a couple weeks ago, my son, Evan, and his team won the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association’s State Championships for the under eleven (U11) bracket. It was an incredibly exciting and hard-fought tournament and season. The boys did not win on sheer talent or grit, instead they practiced really hard and had a trio of excellent coaches who pushed the boys to victory.
I observed one defining coaching lesson distinctly; Coach Jim, the head coach, led the practice and let me tell you, it was an intense one. As I watched, I noticed that Coach Jim would stop practice when one of the players was not paying attention or was not following instructions. He would patiently wait for that player to notice and return to the group. Then, he would order the whole team to all do five pushups. This happened multiple times throughout practice (ten-year-olds are prone to distraction!).
Watching Coach Jim at a game or a practice for even a few minutes will show you a few things: A) He really cares deeply about these kids, B) he has an extremely clear vision of what makes a successful soccer team/soccer player and a program for getting there, and C) deviations from that program lose games. When Coach Jim calls out to “drop and give me five!” he is not being mean, he is trying to break players from thinking they can go their own way. He is teaching them that without appropriate focus, what makes them special may be holding them back. In soccer—the team sport of team sports—going your own way loses games.
As a fundraising consultant, there are times that I wish I could blow my whistle and bark out “drop and give me five (more like twenty!)”. I have come across at least two dozen clients over the years that hired Dickerson, Bakker for help in raising more money and then presented all sorts of reasons not to implement the sound fundraising plans and strategy we recommend; most often their resistance is in the name of being “different” or “special.” I have heard things like “our culture doesn’t work that way” or “we thought about trying that, but because things are different here: that won’t work.” A less direct variation is when clients ask for minor changes that take a bunch of time but do not impact the bottomline. This variation as well as their more direct cousins serve as stall tactics for going about the business of fundraising.
Perhaps I am ranting a bit, but honestly, for the vast majority of organizations, fundraising is fundraising. It is the work of presenting a thoughtful case, challenging donors with a bold offer, asking donors to sacrifice, and then repeating the process; those basics yield results! Yes, community and organizational culture are factors that impact approach in fundraising. However, too many fundraisers put too much weight in culture or long-standing practices that prevent getting back to the basics. Thus, fundraisers fail to ask their donors for a specific gift amount, encourage their donors to stretch, or present a bold challenge. They accept the excuse of being special, exempting themselves from basic elements of fundraising that they have not come to peace with yet.
I am not saying that you are not special. In fact, we are all created in the image of God. However, like on Evan’s soccer team, when we get that out of proportion, we end up sacrificing points…or in our case, leaving money our agencies and beneficiaries need, on the table. So, let me encourage you to think about how you might be held back by what makes you special. If you don’t know, sincerely ask a friend, colleague, or consultant. Then find ways to push yourself and your donors this year end. Ask boldly for the big gift. Here is to getting back to the basics of fundraising and a successful year-end fundraising season.
Feeling held back? Dickerson, Bakker helps clients break free from fundraising ruts, so revenue can grow…in most cases over 20% in the first year. Call us or request to connect with a member of our team today to learn more.