If your aim is to secure fundraising success for tomorrow, there are 3 commitments you should make today:
1. The Commitment to Encounter – in our hyper-linked, liked, and shared digital world, it is easy to believe in an illusion of human connection, in a misimpression of relationship, in a counterfeit version of knowing others. But even today (perhaps even more so today), there is authentic human connection and relationship still to be enjoyed. Encountering others is different than engaging or involving and, actually, is the bedrock upon which engagement or involvement is built. To encounter another is to experience the individual as a whole person, as more than a donor prospect. It is valuing their uniqueness and being wide open to their differences from you. It is offering people space to share about themselves. It is experiencing them not as people who can be used, controlled, convinced, etc. But, rather, as people from whom we can learn and grow, and as people who can relieve us of our own self-imposed prisons of assumptions and biases. When we encounter others, we establish deep trust and true relationship. From that point, everything good is possible.
2. The Commitment to Invite – inviting others might appear to be an easy task. But, it is not done nearly enough in our work as advancement leaders. Invite others to events. Invite others to give. Invite others to volunteer. Invite others to support a cause they care about. Invite others to help plan for your institution’s future. Invite others to serve on a committee. Invite others to invite others! Personal invitations. Meaningful invitations. Invitations we believe in. We should be spending the vast majority of our time in advancement inviting others. But, we don’t. We find reasons (excuses) why the timing isn’t the best. How we still need to learn a little more. Or how we have to complete a few more steps before we are ready to invite. Nonsense! The institutions that commit to inviting more will win more support from others.
3. The Commitment to Learn – connected to both the Commitment to Encounter and the Commitment to Invite is the Commitment to Learn. The very best leaders are smart enough to know that they don’t have all the answers. Be one of them. Position yourself each day with a commitment to listen and learn from others. Hire people who are different than you. Bring the contrarians in your world closer to you. Let others hear you say you need their perspectives and experience. Our world is changing too fast and too fundamentally for any one leader to have all the insights and answers. Advancement leaders who are willing to learn will lead the most successful programs in the future.
I can’t promise that practicing these 3 commitments will ensure fundraising success in the future. But, I am confident that advancement leaders who eschew these commitments will struggle mightily.
And when we lean into encountering, inviting, and learning we not only give our institutions a better chance at future fundraising success. We also become better humans.