Fundraising for both board members and staff is a learned-by-doing job — a skill forged in the fire of rejection, rebuttal and risk-taking, all for the joy of hearing Yes!
It was October 2000. The ballroom was full. The “spotters” for the gala live auction were in place, and the well-liked volunteer auctioneer was on stage.
Up went the hands. Up went the bids. Then, suddenly, he stopped and looked around the room. “Does anybody in here know how much…a dollar can buy?”
I was spotting just off stage. “Four pounds,” I said loudly. “A dollar can provide four pounds….”
“Come on up here and help me,” he said, waving me up.
I could either join him in front of 300 people I barely knew or say no and create a show-slowing scene. Pragmatically, I walked up the steps.
My decision that evening transformed my new role from unknown, inexperienced fundraiser into visible, knowledgeable development director.
Inherent in risk is a lack of planning but not a lack of preparation. I hadn’t planned to be on stage, but once invited, I was prepared with answers.
Another Risk, Years Later
During intermission, I hurried back stage. The world-class pianist had just completed a piece by Rachmaninoff, and now I wanted him to congratulate our generous sponsor, whose first son had been born that morning.
Slowly, I explained and then handed the pianist my cell phone. He smiled as he talked, warm and sincere. Our philanthropist was thrilled, and my understanding of donor-centric fundraising deepened.
At Miracle Strategies Fundraising & Marketing, I teach that fundraising is hard work. Preparing for that hard work prepares you for spontaneous risk taking.
Watch “How to Stay Optimistic in Fundraising.”
Oh, yes, and if you’re a non-profit board member, please be forgiving. I wrote only about two risks that worked.
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