The power of showing up

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” The reason that’s sadly accurate is so many people don’t bother showing up: they bluster, bellow, BS, and then disappear. The ones who make a difference are the ones who hang on and focus.

Doing things right is not very glamorous. You could say it’s boring. That’s the thesis over at Passionate Giving, where they’ve just finished a great six-part series called The Boring Indispensables of Major Gifts.

They start with the sorry tale of a nonprofit leader who wants to change everything — but ignores the basics along the way. Maybe you know someone like this guy:

… this gentleman had imagined that he didn’t need to think about something so basic as securing or keeping a donor. Instead he was going to fix the brand, do some PR, have some events, make some friends, etc. — all good things, but none of them having any real lasting economic value. I am sure all his planned activity made him FEEL good. I know for a fact it really didn’t get him anywhere.

I’ve seen it happen more times than I care to recount. It’s better when Mr. Excitement is so wrapped up in the glamorous stuff that smart fundraising continues to operate under benign neglect. It can then pick up the revenue slack, and little lasting harm is done.

It’s much worse when Mr. Excitement drains budget from the boring stuff to put it into his speculative pet projects. That means revenue-producing activities shrink or get cancelled, dooming the organization to years of under-funding and painful cuts.

Mr. Excitement typically moves on (or gets fired), leaving others to pick up the pieces. Recovering from even one year of this version of Mr. Excitement can take five years or more.

I’m sorry to sound jaded, but anyone who’s been in contact with nonprofits for any length of time has probably seen this happen. It’s painfully common.

We allow too many leaders to play that game.

Focusing on the boring basics is critical not only in major donor fundraising, but all types of fundraising, every kind of marketing and advertising, and life in general.

Keep your eye on the ball. Do your best to encourage your leaders to do so too. It’s not the most exciting thing, but raising lots of money to make your good work possible is many times more exciting than any sexy new projects will ever be.

Check out the Passionate Giving series on the boring indispensables:


  1. Having The Right Job Description
  2. Valuing Administrative Support
  3. Getting Through The Grueling Day to Day
  4. Having To Meet Expectations
  5. Pursuing Management Values
  6. Having To Go Solo And Feeling Alone


Comments

2 responses to “The power of showing up”

  1. This is one of the best posts I have seen about Major Gifts Officers. Thanks Jeff!

  2. This is one of the best posts I have seen about Major Gifts Officers. Thanks Jeff!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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