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Occupational Hazards

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A man is walking along the road wearing only one boot. "Did you lose a boot?" a passerby asks sympathetically. "No, I found one," the man answers happily.

— from Tiny Revolutions in Russia


Some years ago I was the new person in a development position and it wasn't long before I realized that the board was not very involved with or invested in fundraising. Some were quite vocal in expressing their negative opinions on the topic. Needless to say, I was taken aback. I wondered why I had even been hired.

But there was one board member who did a rare thing – he spoke up in favor of my plan against what appeared to be a group consensus. In the months that followed, this board member was THE ONE I could count on to make a call to a potential donor in his network.

Initially it was slow going. Most of the people and businesses I had asked him to contact were not open to funding us. I worried that he was going to get discouraged. Eventually, though, we began to received grants and annual giving increased every year. I knew we'd reached a turning point when a board member who had been the first to speak out against fundraising said, in a board meeting, that she was impressed with what we'd been able to achieve.

Looking back, I realized that the early struggles were not a boot that we lost, they were a boot that we found. We learned a lot from those conversations that had ended with a "no." We learned if it was a "no" for now or a "no" forever. We learned about prospects' budget cycles, internal politics, and who were the gatekeepers and who had the influence. We learned what the influencers liked to support and how they wanted to be approached in more detail than was available through the usual sources. That's really valuable information.

These "failures" allowed us to either plan a strategy or to not waste our efforts and move on to greener fields. So next time you feel discouraged about that grant rejection, take what you've learned and build it into your long-term strategy. Let your volunteer fundraisers know that even if they got a "no," they are still doing valuable work – they are finding that one boot. And next time, maybe you'll get that second boot to complete the pair.

Tagged in: Fundraising Management

For me, fundraising and communications go together like peanut butter and jelly – delicious & filling!

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