Fundraising Requires Flexibility


This week I celebrate Wastyn & Associate’s seventh anniversary. In fact, tomorrow – August 1 – marks the exact date in 2011 when I left my job to embark on this wild, wonderful and often frightening adventure of consulting and business ownership.

I never planned to open my own company and become a fundraising consultant. I had a good job that I enjoyed. But then life happened, and I had to make a decision about my future that, for the first time in a long time, included the possibility of a different career or at least a different employer.

As I reflect back on the last seven years – and plan for the next seven – I see that flexibility – the ability and willingness to adapt to changing situations – serves as a critical factor in both my success and sanity.

Life continually throws us curveballs. Knowing when to take a swing to try to hit it out of the park or jump out of the way of a ball that’s high and inside can mean the difference between embracing these life-changing events or getting beaned in the head. 

If you work with people – and fundraising professionals do, you will have those curveballs thrown at you regularly.

How can you make sure that you hit more curveballs than hit you?

  1. Keep your mission at the forefront of all you do. When you act in the best interest of your mission, rarely can you go wrong. Most people and organizations get into trouble when self-interests or the interests of others take precedence over the organization’s mission. Know when and where you can exercise flexibility and when steadfastness serves you better. In fidelity to your mission – and principles and values, remain steadfast. Stand in the batter’s box.

  2. Act in a donor-centric way. Every day. Always. Like your mission, you also keep your donors at the center of all you do. That means they don’t bend, you do. Chase the ball if you need to!

    What does this look like?

    Meeting a donor at 7 AM because that works with her schedule even though you would rather sleep in. (That’s me!) Driving across town to meet at the donor’s house or office to make it more convenient for him. Staying after work to finish a proposal or thank you for a donor at that 7 AM meeting. Giving the donor the time and space to make a decision on his or her gift even as your internal deadline looms. Does it really matter if you receive the gift on June 30 or July 3? Probably not, but it might make a world of difference to the donor.

  3. Network with other fundraising professionals to learn how they accomplish their goals. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Attend their events. You might learn a new way of doing something or thinking about a project. Better yet, ask your donors what they like and act accordingly!

  4. Read the literature, especially best practices and research. As marketing techniques evolve, the population ages, and society changes, the traditional ways to raise money may no longer work. Become a student of fundraising and nonprofit management, incorporating some of these best practices into your work.

  5. Experiment. Always send your annual fund appeal in November? Try October to see if you get a different response. Better yet, try April (right after tax season!). Never tried a Facebook appeal? Do your research and try it out. You might fail, but you also might discover a new way for your constituents to support your organization.

As the old saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” With some flexibility on your part, you may experience different results.

And, with any luck, in the process you will also have great fun, meet some great people, and make a difference in this world.