When Others Are Fearful. . .

Fresh from a conference with other college presidents, a client once called me to express his concern about moving forward with campaign plans.  Like recent days, the markets had been up and down (mostly down) and the talk at the conference had apparently been about institutions pausing their campaign plans or stopping them altogether.  “Jason,” he said,  “I’m concerned that the economy will cause our campaign to be unsuccessful.”

“What size gift were we expecting ‘The Economy’ to give?” I asked.

I really wasn’t trying to be flip.  It just came out sounding that way.  But, my point was simple.  The campaign was going to succeed based on donors, not the economy.  And, while some donors may be have been impacted negatively by the market gyrations, others may have made money!  And still others may not have been impacted much at all.  Before pausing or cancelling a campaign, I suggested they talk further with their donors – the standard consultant response.

Warren Buffet has said he has a simple rule when investing: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”  One way to take Buffet’s rule is to do the opposite of conventional wisdom.

With the markets in full gyration this week, some leaders are again beginning to question the wisdom of launching campaigns, or moving on other strategic plans to advance their institutions.

My counsel?  Do the opposite of what the doomsday predictors are suggesting.  If your institution has a sound, inspiring plan to achieve important goals, move forward with your donors!   Sure, keep an eye on what is happening in the broader world and the markets.   But chase your aspirations with confidence and boldness.  Our institutions and those we serve deserve no less from us.


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