Greek mythology tells us about Sisyphus, a man condemned to spend eternity rolling a heavy rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back down the minute he got it to the summit. None of us like to see our efforts wasted, so the thought of doing something over and over and over again without ever achieving “victory” (however that is defined for that project) is a maddening concept.
And yet, too often in fundraising we cheerfully push a bolder up a hill again and again, never really achieving our goal of raising funds to sustain our programs.
Some of the ways we do this are focusing our fundraising on the wrong people and working hard to develop information but not distributing it in a way that will be seen by the majority of our supporters. So how do we avoid these Sisyphean tendencies?
Remember the three requirements before a person will donate. An individual (or corporation, for that matter) must have philanthropic intent; an interest in your mission; and disposable income. When these three come together, you have a possible supporter; but if any are missing, your chances of success are greatly reduced. While we usually are good at accessing a person’s philanthropic interests, especially as they relate (or don’t relate) to our cause, we often neglect to consider whether or not a person is financially able to contribute in a way that allows our organization to survive, thrive and even make meaningful progress toward achieving our mission.
Be where your donors are. We have more options than ever before when it comes to investing our fundraising budget and staff time. The truth is, we have to have a consistent message that is easy for someone to find when he or she goes looking. But when we dismiss time-tested fundraising so we can invest in more exciting activities that we haven’t yet been able to monetize, we risk investing in a future that may never come if we can’t sustain the organization in the present. Likes and shares are nice, but they won’t help you make the next payroll. So even as you are embracing new opportunities for fundraising, don’t sacrifice the methodologies that may not be as shiny but are proven workhorses in fundraising.
If you’re feeling like you are pushing a bolder up a hill and not achieving success, ask yourself if you are focused on today’s donor or only chasing tomorrow’s prospect.