Curing The Sedentary Development Program

A growing body of research is forming around the role of exercise in heart disease and other ailments.  Turns out, exercise alone may not be enough to keep a heart attack at bay.  Today so many of us sit so much of the time that no amount of exercise can counteract some of deleterious effects of resting on our backside.

So, while many people might think that the “30 minutes per session, 3 times a week” exercise routine will make us more healthy and heart-attack proof, the research on sitting is saying something else.  Yes, exercise is good, but to really make our hearts healthy, we need to stand and walk more — be more active in general.  We weren’t designed to sit so much.

This compelling research got me thinking about our development programs.  It is not uncommon for me to work with institutions who practice what you could call “sedentary development.”  In other words, they conduct major direct mail efforts a few times per year, implement a phonathon a couple of times per year, and, perhaps, have a number of special and outreach events.

Such a development program is similar to the “30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week” paradigm.  It’s not that they are doing the wrong things.  Direct mail, phonathon, outreach events – these are all good.  But they represent bursts of activity – not unlike the 30 minutes of hard exercise 3 times per week.  And just as with exercise, these bursts of development activity don’t add up to a healthy institution.

The healthy development program doesn’t get caught up so much with bursts of activity.   It’s a not a collection of distinct and separate activities with periods of rest in between.  The cycle of high activity followed by periods of rest isn’t effective.

Instead, the truly effective development program is an exercise that occurs everyday.  It’s a comprehensive system, incorporating major and planned giving strategies with annual giving strategies.  It is a year-round endeavor which includes regular visits with major and planned giving donors and prospects.

It is well-measured and even.  It is constant.  It is a lifestyle that includes much more standing and much less sitting.  If you choose this approach, both your heart and your institution will thank you.

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