Let’s Finish This Campaign Quickly! – One Phrase, Two Meanings

Case Study #1

A president who is new to campaign work and has found that she genuinely enjoys working in the philanthropic vineyard was in a meeting with the vice president for advancement and me. She said, “I’m so excited about what this new facility will allow us to do for our students and for our community.  We are so close to having all of the funding to finish it.  Let’s go get it.  Let’s finish this campaign quickly!”

Case Study #2

At another institution, I was in a meeting with the vice president for advancement and the Advancement Committee of the Board of Directors.  The institution was nearing the end of a successful (and relatively short) quiet phase of their campaign and one of the Board members asked a question about the projected length of the public phase of the campaign.  The vice president spoke up, “I don’t want to be in the public phase any longer than we need to.  I’m worried about donor fatigue.  I want us to finish this campaign quickly!”

In the first case study, the president communicated enthusiasm for the cause.  She was excited and her passion was infectious.   But more than communicating authentic delight, she was communicating that giving is good and that being part of the giving process is fun.  In essence, she was saying, “let’s go spread the message and invite even more people to experience the joy of giving to such a worthwhile project!”

Meanwhile, in the second case study, the vice president communicated a sense of negativity about giving.  His message was clear:  That the campaign was something to finish as quickly as possible because it was grueling and difficult.  That giving leads to fatigue and donors have to take a rest from the onerous task of being generous.  That giving isn’t joyful, isn’t fun, isn’t good and that we should get it over with as soon as possible.

The kicker:  Both of these episodes happened during the same week.

Guess which institution actually finished their campaign quickly?


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