On Being Peculiar

We use the word all the time:  “That’s peculiar!”  “He’s just peculiar.”

And while our use of the word may not be snidely, on most occasions we use it to mean something less than positive.  In fact, the first definition for the word given by dictionary.com is strange, queer, odd.

Many of your major donors are peculiar.  They are different.  They have extraordinary wealth.  Why didn’t they have the same (or similar) financial success as 99% of the rest of the western world?  Sure, a few of them have “family” money.  But most of your major donors are self-made.

They made different choices in life and, in many instances, they have “strange” or “odd” personalities (I worked with a extraordinarily wealthy major donor who, at restaurant dinners, would ask for a “doggie bag,” and take every edible item off the table, including rolls, butter, and all of the packets of Sweet’N Low!).

Their strange choices, unique talents, drive, and eccentric personalities have been rewarded financially by our world.  They are not like the rest of us.  If they were, they wouldn’t be enjoying abnormal financial success.

So, each of our institutions has peculiar major donors.  And, it is these donors – these peculiar folk – who can make a huge difference for our institutions.  They make reaching our campaign goals a reality.  They make our annual fund numbers jump.  We need more peculiar major donors!  But how do we get them?

One way is to use the same path to success many of them have used – be peculiar!  What is “strange” about your advancement program?  What makes you “odd”?  Or, to put in language that may land more easily on your ear, “What makes your program distinctive?”

If your institution engages donors in a similar way to every other institution in your city, you probably will get similar results.  If your annual fund uses the same methods from year to year, you probably will get similar results.  If your development officers spend the “average” amount of time out of the office, you probably get average results.

But when you do something different, odd, strange. . . peculiar, you give yourself the chance to receive extraordinary results.

Peculiarity can be rewarding. . . just ask some of your major donors.


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