Some advancement professionals focus on the work. For instance:
- generating the segmented distribution list for the next direct mail solicitation, or
- designing the invitation for the annual donor recognition dinner, or
- reviewing the latest wealth indicator scores for the upcoming prospect management meeting, or
- creating the agenda for the next Board Advancement Committee meeting, or
- writing the donor story for the next Planned Giving newsletter.
Other advancement professionals focus on the donor. For instance:
- identifying which donors should be pulled from the next direct mail solicitation because they will soon be approached for a major gift, or
- strategizing on which donors should sit with the president or the vice president at the annual donor recognition dinner, or
- establishing a personalized outreach and discovery strategy for the prospects most likely to make a major gift as identified through the wealth screen, or
- implementing a plan to announce a Board member’s gift during the Board Advancement Committee meeting for maximum recognition, or
- selecting the donors to be recognized in the next Planned Giving newsletter based on their – in many cases unstated – interest to be publicly appreciated.
While still other advancement professionals focus on the cause. For instance:
- creating stories used in direct mail solicitations that highlight the mission and its impact on those you serve, or
- recruiting the entertainment for the annual donor recognition dinner which showcases the talented individuals connected to your institution, or
- crafting the proposal for the identified major gift prospect which creatively aligns the donor’s interests and values with the needs of your institution, or
- asking the Board Advancement Committee members on a regular basis to share why they are involved and why your institution matters to them and their families, or
- including in the Planned Giving newsletter donor story the perspective of an individual who already has benefitted from a matured planned gift and share how that gift impacted their experience at your institution.
Advancement programs are most effective when individuals and teams appropriately focus on all 3 – the work, the donor, and the cause.
However, too often, our focus on the work comes first, the donor comes second, and whatever little remains of our time, our energy, our focus, and our effort is allocated to the cause.
The problem, of course, is that when we focus too much on the work, we run the risk of burn out. And, when we focus too much on the donor (yes, we can focus too much on donors), we run the risk of meeting the donor’s needs instead of meeting the needs of those we serve.
It is only when we consistently prioritize the importance of the cause that we remind ourselves, our volunteers, and our donors of our calling to serve something bigger than our own interests and greater than our own aspirations.
Only the cause has the capacity to animate our most generous and life-affirming impulses.