For those of you who practice the craft of development in the education arena, you are aware of CASE – the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. A fine and helpful organization.
Because CASE conferences have been effective in disseminating good ideas and initiatives, the friendly joke within development circles in education is that CASE actually stands for “Copy And Steal Everything.” If you practice development outside of education, you may be aware of a comparable organization which serves a similar purpose.
The problem with the “Copy And Steal Everything” mantra is that it only works early on. Copying and stealing everything can help get you started in development. It can give you helpful ideas on programs, initiatives, events, and activities when you are just learning the principles of effective development. It can provide you with off-the-shelf tactics that work in most circumstances.
But as you grow and embrace the principles of donor-centric development, you recognize that situational nuance is more important than any specific tactic. Asking well-framed questions and listening trumps telling and selling. Creating solutions specific to your organization’s culture and donors is more effective than simply applying what has worked someplace else.
To be an exceptional development professional – one who consistently gets results and advances the institution in meaningful ways – we must be much more of a creative than we are mechanic.
When we create new programs, when we craft proposals from scratch, when we design new events – all based not on what has worked elsewhere, but what needs to work for our institution and donors – we begin the journey to exceptionalism. And don’t be surprised if someone else wants to copy and steal what you are doing.