Are You Buying It?

These two myths are enticing and oh so tempting to buy into

Fundraising is a delicate balance of science and art. And unfortunately, there are myths surrounding fundraising that are easy to buy into. Let me unpack two of those myths for you today.

Myth 1 – This fundraising approach feels cookie-cutter.

The balance of art and science in fundraising can be tricky to achieve. And I can totally appreciate this perspective because often we want to feel like we have come up with the latest trending idea.

When your responsibility is the vital funding your organisation needs to do the ministry work you’re passionate about, it can be very enticing to buy into the myth that your fundraising program has become formulaic or cookie-cutter.

The reality is there are some fundamental truths in fundraising, no matter what ministry you’re working for. Here are two:

1. The donor is the hero of your organisation.

We all think the organisation we work for is amazing, and most likely it is!

However, if you work for a donor-funded ministry, the heroes of your organisation are not the amazing transformation your ministry produces, your wonderfully talented team, or your first-class programs.

Your donors are! It’s their passion to make a difference in the world or see God’s kingdom advance that gives your organisation permission to exist. And each of the talented people within your organisation only have the opportunity to live out their own individual calling because of your donors.

2. Effective fundraising is intentional.

“Everything looks the same; can’t you make it prettier?” is a very common critique of fundraising communications.

And, well, the answer is yes and no. Effective fundraising is intentional in language, structure, and tactical execution. And this is because of human psychology, not lack of creativity, ideas, or laziness.

Formatting, the placement of headings, the use of particular types of images and colours, and the flow of logic are all applied intentionally to maintain the attention of the reader. No matter how amazing you think your organisation is – there are lots of amazing organisations out there doing wonderful things.

And all of them are “shouting” for attention. A recent study* found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2019. This means more than ever the masterful application of these fundamental techniques is essential.

The most effective way to be prettier is not to be pretty for pretty’s sake – and just so you know I am a proud fundraiser and a visual artist – I like pretty. But the best way to be prettier is to be true to your organisation’s unique self.

Knowing your organisation’s unique brand promise will allow you to own your unique space in the marketplace, and this will mean you will stand out.

Myth 2 – Fundraising is a machine always needing to be fed.

In high school, I was a 100-metre sprinter and as glamourous as that sounds the glory moment of that sport is over in a matter of seconds. While performance in the “glory moment” is important, it’s not usually what determines the sprinter’s success.

And it’s the same for your fundraising program! It’s the consistent, relentless discipline of executing the basics with excellence that will be the greatest predictor of your program’s success.

This can feel monotonous and mechanical. And it can be tempting to buy into the idea that it’s time to shake it up a bit. But like the sprinter, the latest trend on training technique will never replace the results gained by executing the basics until they become muscle memory.

The same is true for your fundraising program. There’s no silver bullet that will shortcut the discipline required to achieve a sustainable, scalable fundraising program.

As humans – and all fundraisers are people – we like the familiarity of routine, often sabotaging change when it’s necessary. At the same time, finding the demands of discipline monotonous and often boring, it’s easy to favour the new and the bright and the shiny.

There’s nothing wrong with the new and the bright and the shiny – but discipline is essential to success. And there’s nothing wrong with familiar routines unless they are no longer helping you achieve your personal or ministry outcomes.

Buying into the above two myths is very tempting. But as the Latin proverb says, “Fortune favours the brave.” And it’s brave to examine if the truths of fundraising are being guarded in your organisation, and if you are being disciplined in this God-ordained work you’ve been called into.

*Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, US, National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press

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