Long-distance runners are a peculiar group. Typically, they love numbers, setting goals, and tracking progress. In fact, in the long-distance running world, every run – even for recreational runners – is tracked by a phone, running watch, or other tracking device.
The term “running naked,” emerged a number of years ago to simply mean, “run unconnected” – to take the watch off. To leave the phone at home. To simply go out and run. Instead of being hyper-focused on pace and time, to reconnect with your movement and breathing, with the natural world around you, with your thoughts.
Running naked has many positives, of course. When runners head out naked, they are usually reminded of their love of running. They report a sense of deeper awareness with their bodies and how they feel physically. Also, many emerge from naked runs feeling more mentally refreshed as compared to runs when they are constantly checking their tracking device. Simply stated, there is a sense of greater joy.
I wonder sometimes if fundraisers also get too caught up with the metrics, the goals, and the timing pressures related to donor engagement. Just as with long-distance running, when we focus too intensely on the mechanics of a fundraiser’s performance metrics, we run the risk of removing the innate joy and and delight associated with the gift giving process.
Many, especially newer fundraisers, can get so caught up with the concept of “doing it right,” they lose sight of simply being present with donors, asking curious questions, listening to them, learning from them, and educating them.
Fundraising naked doesn’t mean, of course, that all metrics, goals, and portfolio management reports are to be thrown away. No, they have a purpose. But the purpose of our goals and metrics is not to become the work. Their purpose is to reflect our progress in the work. As long as we keep donor engagement as the focus of our work, and keep metrics and goals as a subordinate, less important aspect of the work that operates in the background, we have a chance to be present with donors and create special, delightful, and satisfying gift-giving experiences.
When runners run naked, you will often hear them say things like, “I forgot how wonderful it is to really listen to the birds sing.”
Likewise, when we fundraise naked, I believe we might hear fundraisers say, “I forgot how inspiring it is to really listen to why our donors give.”