"Tuesdays with Terry #20" - June 2013

The Winning Ingredient

“If you were to pick just one attribute that leads to the greatest success in fundraising, what would it be?”

That was the question put to me a few weeks ago by someone who has been in the profession just a few short years.

It was obvious that the questioner had experienced most of the difficulties we’ve all seen in recent times:  a worldwide recession, increased competition from new non-profits and cutbacks in government subsidies that have affected many.  And we have all seen the changing corporate giving attitudes . . . directors and shareholders demanding a quid pro quo for contributions or otherwise being driven by employee demands that corporate funding be applied to those areas that benefit workers and their families.

Yet, considering all of that, various answers to the question immediately sprang to mind.

Experience – the fact that you’ve walked the road before . . . is often a contribution to the positive outcome of raising money.

Knowledge – about the donors and potential donors . . . what motivates them; how to nurture the relationship, recognize and acknowledge their contributions.

Skill – the technical aspects of fundraising that can be learned in textbooks . . . but so often the inability to apply them creates failures.

Luck – some people certainly feel that it plays a part . . . finding just the right volunteer Chair or the willing top donor.

Connections – who you know with top financial influence or who you can influence personally to involve themselves in the fundraising effort.

A Supportive Board – whose members recognize their role and responsibility in supporting the funding process.

A strong Case for Support – a real and urgent need that is obviously worthy of support . . . where the consequences of not raising the funds are too horrible to contemplate.

Energy – the ability and willingness to put in 14-hour days.

All of these are certainly important and in combination can make the life of a development officer very much easier.  The degree to which each is present in the person or in a fundraising campaign/effort has a strong bearing on the chances of success and the degree of that success.

BUT, after careful reflections, the answer that I finally gave was ATTITUDE.  Your attitude toward yourself and toward others is the single most important factor that impacts your ability to perform at the highest possible level.

Your attitude affects everyone around you.  It lifts the “sights” of others and creates the desire to follow toward a goal that is obviously going to be attained.

A positive attitude exudes the enthusiasm and the energy necessary to overcome the inevitable setbacks in fundraising.  The refusals; the disappointments that arise from lower than expected gifts; and the objections that need to be carefully heard and answered with honesty and understanding of the donor’s viewpoint.

Our attitude colors our enjoyment of the job at hand and it decides whether we rise in the morning enthusiastically looking forward to the day ahead or dragging our feet and wishing it were time to go home.  It rubs off on volunteer committees and fellow staff members; it allows us to admit that we don’t “know it all” and can still learn from others  . . . every day of our lives.

AND, our attitude helps us develop rapport and trust with donors and volunteer board members.  It is the way we first motivate ourselves and gives us the ability to motivate others.  So many people out there are looking for a positive sign - - something to hitch onto - - that will enable them to cast aside the negative and reach for new heights.

The greatest motivational writers all agree that if we can monitor our thinking and work at maintaining a positive mental attitude, we will improve every aspect of our lives and the lives around us.  ATTITUDE is . . . the winning ingredient.

If your organization needs some new attitudes around the development shop, call us.  We can help you find the right people for your fundraising program.