“I’m Getting Ready To. . .”

If your aim is to “get yourself organized” before you call on donors, don’t.

If you believe you need a case statement or more materials before you can set up a prospective donor visit, you’re wrong.

If you are spending hours running or reading reports on the donors in your portfolio, you are wasting time.

If your first inclination is to talk with advancement services about getting another prospective donor profile, stop.

It is not uncommon for development officers to manufacture hurdles like the ones above.  It’s the “I’m getting ready to. . . .” syndrome.  It can be easy to get stuck in the preparations.

This is not the work of the conscious brain necessarily.  We don’t set out consciously to get stalled in the “getting ready” stage.  But it is comfortable there.  It is easy there.  There is little risk there.   “If I stay busy and active doing stuff that looks like good development work, I won’t have to risk failing with donors,” our fearful subconscious condones.

But just because we create these hurdles subconsciously doesn’t mean they aren’t major impediments to our real work.  Today you should call, invite, go, ask, care, listen, and engage.  Don’t be concerned if you don’t have every “i” dotted.  Just be your human self with a donor or prospect.

Will it always work?  No.  Of course not.  It’s not a sure-fire approach to success.  But, the “I’m getting ready to” syndrome is a sure-fire path to ineffectiveness.  Until you get comfortable with the notion of failure, you won’t reach your far edge of promise in work or in life.



  1. I have a small group of fundraisers. Because of the size of the office they are focus on things outside of meeting/talking to donors (i.e. events, stewardship, admin work). I am trying to devise a way that helps them get out and do the “fundraising” work a little more. Any thoughts? And we have recently implemented a hard-and-fast procedure for contact reports – but it is hard for all of us to get into the habit of doing them. Any ways to motivate?

    My initial thought was to set up a weekly planning meeting where we discuss prospects – but I am not sure that would be very effective.

    Looking for any advice…

    Love the article by the way! Great insights

    • Hi Art: Thanks for reading and for your questions. Yes, there are a number of approaches a leader can take to clarify, encourage, and, ultimately, evaluate folks on the team. Choosing the best approach for your shop and your team will depend on variety of factors (how many fundraisers, maturity of the program, culture, etc.). I’d be happy to talk with you offline to better address these questions. Please feel free to drop me an email at jmcneal@gonsergerber.com and we can set up a time to talk.

      Best wishes,


    Leave a Reply

    Using Gravatars in the comments - get your own and be recognized!

    XHTML: These are some of the tags you can use: <a href=""> <b> <blockquote> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>