I’ll admit it. When I want to relax, I’ll play games on my phone. (You too?)
These days, I’ve been playing with a simple game that’s like one my younger son was given as a little kid. It involves moving blocks around, one at a time, to free another block from the field.
What in the world does this have to do with fundraising? I’m not completely sure. But I do know that the same thoughts keep popping into my head while I’m working through the puzzles. I think there may be some lessons here for us.
If there’s only one piece you can move, then move it
Try not to let your ever-growing to-do list leave you paralyzed. Chances are you won’t get everything done that you know needs to be done. But if you don’t start, you’re guaranteed to fail. So make a move. Write a thank you note. Call a long-time donor. Write that appeal – and edit it later. Right now, just get started!
Sometimes you have to be willing to go back to move forward
Sometimes, the smartest move is to retrace some steps. Why didn’t that last email get much response? Is there a reason sponsors aren’t interested in your event? What could you do differently next time? You’re not moving backward. You’re learning. Do it.
Fresh eyes see things more clearly
Sometimes you have to walk away. After you’ve written that appeal is a great time for this. Don’t even think about re-reading it or editing it. Give yourself some time. So much gets clearer when you’re not focused on the immediate task!
I find I usually need to switch tasks as I go through the day. When I can’t look at another spreadsheet, I work on my next newsletter design. When I need creative inspiration, I stuff some envelopes. A different kind of concentration frees your mind.
Sometimes you just have to give up and go to the next one
That prospect you’ve been counting on for years. The one you’ve been sure would fall in love with your organization, if only you invited her to enough events or sent enough information? Sometimes, you have to move on. There’s no hard rule for when it’s time. But if you’re ignoring the donors who already care to chase the next big thing, you may be wasting your time.
On the other hand, patience is an under-valued asset. So long as you’re not ignoring the donors who love you now, keep working. Everyone I’ve talked to has a story about a foundation that finally awarded a grant after receiving 5 applications. Or the long-time small donor who suddenly finds the right program and becomes a major supporter. If you don’t have the patience to nurture those relationships, some will never blossom. Don’t give up too easily.
Keep the goal in sight
Stay in touch with your mission. Remember that your success isn’t really measured in dollars. It’s measured in the impact your donors have on the world through the work of your organization. It’s great to be able to report to your board that the last appeal is bringing in a record number of responses. Or that the event has already sold more tickets than last year. Go ahead, celebrate a little. But when you remember that one kid whose dreams have come true thanks to those donors and tickets, or one donor who tells you how much being involved has meant to him… that’s the real value.