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Fundraising Success = (Consistency + Discipline) / Time

By the time you read this, #GivingTuesday is over.

Maybe you're flush with gifts and happy dancing down the hall.

Maybe you're disappointed and discouraged because things didn't go the way you planned.

Maybe you're a little embarrassed because you didn't even try.

Whether you're in the first, second, or third situation, you need to know this: In fundraising, you won't get by today or tomorrow on what happened yesterday.

Just like you can't eat healthy today yesterday.

You can't exercise today yesterday.

And you can't raise money today yesterday.

So whether what you tried yesterday sank or soared, you have to learn from it and move on.

I know from personal experience the temptation to either give up or rest on your laurels.

Your fundraising plans fail or fall short. It's easy to say: "I'm not cut out for this." It's easy to say: "Maybe I could raise more money if I had different donors or worked at a different organization."

Don't bet on it.

One of the mistakes I made early in my career as a small nonprofit leader--I'm embarrassed to confess that I made it later in my career, too--is thinking "big" and "splashy" are the best measures of success.

You know: The crowdfunding campaign that raises $100,000, the donor who gives $125,000 or the foundation that awards a $350,000 grant.

I've accomplished those things many times in my fundraising career.

I've received accolades and attaboys for them.

People tend to see those big, splashy accomplishments as easy money. The right cause. The right donor. The right fundraiser. The right kind of campaign.

Yes, but don't forget the months or even years of hard work--"daily drudgery", as I call it--that goes into those big, splashy moments.

And they are moments only. Just like #GivingTuesday.

My marriage and all the good that comes from it is not a product of the few special dates and vacations we take each year; it's a product of the "daily drudgery." It's the little things Tracy and I do for each other day after day after day. It's the stuff that doesn't feel romantic or even seem to have anything to do with passion that fuels passion and romance when those moments come.

Fundraising is like that. It's mostly "daily drudgery"--little things you do day after day after day. What everyone often sees is the "big splash," but even a big splash is not as powerful as a slow stream flowing constantly over time. In fact, if you give me a choice between the splash and the stream, I'll take the stream every time. The stream is sustaining and sustainable; a splash lasts only a moment. Even the smallest stream flowing consistently over time can change the hardest landscape and move the biggest rocks.

So in fundraising, like marriage, success is a simple formula:

(Consistency + Discipline) / Time = Success

What little things are important to your donors and volunteers? Practice (discipline) those little things day after day after day (consistency) and keep it up for years (time).

Set aside time every day to express thanks to the people who support you.

Set aside time every day to share something helpful and valuable with your community of support.

Set aside time every day to keep your donor and volunteer records secure and in working order.

Set aside time every day to think about the people who want to go on an adventure with you and what you can give them to delight and serve them.

Set aside time every day to ask, listen, and observe.

Set aside time every day to look for concerns and problems and respond.

Set aside time every day to manage your books to practice good stewardship with what your supporters entrusted to you.

Set aside time every day to think about what you did yesterday and how you can do it better today and tomorrow.

Since fundraising is really just relationships with people, discipline yourself to practice good relationship habits every day. Day after day after day.

(Consistency + Discipline) / Time = Success

This is the formula for sustaining and sustainable fundraising success.

And the good news is that, no matter how things went on #GivingTuesday, you have the formula today. Use it.

Onward and upward!


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