I am an experienced fundraiser with over 20 years in the nonprofit industry as a volunteer and professional. I am a CFRE and completed a Master in Nonprofit Administration. I also believe in being mindful and present at home and at work. We are all one and no one person is better than another. We just have different skill sets and the key is to embrace them in ourselves and others. Together we can do incredible things.
This is something I’ve had to remind myself of lately as I’ve struggled with putting to practice what I’ve been preaching. I have written about the importance of breath and clearing the mind, yet I have had numerous sleepless nights because my mind has taken over. I meditate and take deep breaths, counting my breaths, envisioning blue skies in my mind and the next second my mind goes back to the clutter that kept me awake. It is a reminder how powerful our minds are and the strong mind body connection.
Frustration kicks in when I’m unable to return to a place of observation and that’s when I remind myself – I’m a human being. I cannot judge myself. After all, that is why it’s called a meditation practice. We are constantly practicing, and some days are more difficult than others. But we cannot lose faith in ourselves and we must believe that as long as we are practicing, we are making progress.
I recognize my progress – especially when I observe myself reacting without taking pause. Immediately I question myself how I allowed that to happen. I can’t belabor how I reacted, but my observation is progress.
Sometimes it helps to hold an item to remind you to take pause. I have a stone on my desk that is meant to be a reminder and I often hold onto it to keep my mind centered and calm.
What does this have to do with fundraising?
Fundraising takes patience. It needs to be practiced daily. That doesn’t mean ask for money daily. We must take the time to observe. Look inward. Reflect on the mission and the individuals who benefit from the work that we do. Don’t lose faith. Believe that as long as you are doing the practice, that you are making progress. And if you err along the way, please remember – you are only human.
Depending on the situation, you may feel quality is more important than quantity or vice versa. For example, if there were two groups of individuals given the same amount of money to purchase wine, the results of their purchases could be very different. Wine connoisseurs would argue that the quality of the wine is more important so they may end up with a less number of bottles because the higher quality wine they desired was more expensive. The other group wants to have as much wine as possible so they buy the least expensive wine so that they have more quantity.
At one time in my life I was more concerned with the quantity of friends I had. Sigmund Freud may have said that this was because I wasn’t in the “popular” group in high school. Who knows? But, every weekend I would make plans for my husband and I to go out with a different couple. They were all wonderful, good, and fun people but I came to realize that I had a lot of friends that I could have fun with but they weren’t the deep friendships that I have come to treasure. When you only spend a little time with a lot of people, it’s difficult to develop meaningful relationships with any certain one. But if you spend more time with a limited number of people, then you are blessed with developing relationships that fill your heart.
Does this sound familiar if you are a fundraising professional? It’s the 80/20 rule that 80% of our funding is received from 20% of our donors. I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend any time with the other 80% of our donors, but the quality of the time should be different. For the top 20% that are providing the majority of your funding, you want to have those relationships that fill your heart and your donor’s heart. Do you know what truly matters to your donors? Do you know the name of their family members? Do you know their birthday? Do you know what their favorite thing to do is? Do you know a time in their life that they feel changed them? Do you know what their hopes and dreams are?
When it comes to fundraising, quality beats quantity. Spend time with your donors. You will develop meaningful relationships that will result in meaningful gifts.
Being able to have and express different points of view is what makes our country so wonderful. We are given the freedom to create and develop our own thoughts and then, we usually find like-minded people and gravitate towards them. We learn who shares the same views and whether we can have a friendly debate with those who do not. You know the rule – never discuss religion or politics with friends and family if you want to avoid conflict.
What if that individual is a donor?
I recently had an interesting conversation with an Executive Director (ED) that shared how she referenced a bible verse with a donor because she knew that donor greatly valued her faith. Had the ED not known this fact – that could have offended the donor. Instead, the donor found the conversation particularly meaningful and stated she would be increasing her support.
The ED also shared with me that she had recently meditated for the first time in a long time. Could there be a connection?
The only way to have clarity and to hone into the interests of your donors, is to create space in your mind to allow those thoughts to come through. Take a moment before making that donor call to take a few deep breaths. With each breath reflect on what you know about your donor and what is important to them.
Provide the space and you too will have meaningful conversations.
Happiness isn’t so easily achieved. There seems to be some people who are always happy but I assure you- there are times they aren’t. The difference is how long they allow themselves to be unhappy. I remember hearing a quote once – although I couldn’t locate it to cite the source – it’s ok to be in a space of unhappiness – just don’t build a condo there.
There are so many factors that can contribute to an individual becoming unhappy and no one is immune from them. We will all experience at one time in our lives the loss of a loved one, the ending of a love relationship, a career failure, a personal illness, or experiencing or witnessing events that do not align with our values. Any of these circumstances can lead to unhappiness but it’s how long we allow ourselves to feel that discontent.
Don’t get me wrong – I believe it’s important to feel our emotions. If you do not acknowledge your feelings – you are setting yourself up for serious consequences later on. But there has to be a balance. Allow yourself to feel the unhappiness then move on. Focus on something positive – something you are grateful for.
At the very beginning – there were 2 choices of ice cream – either vanilla or chocolate. It was one or the other. It’s the same with being unhappy. You have 2 choices – choose to dwell in unhappiness or choose to acknowledge the feeling and move on. For every second that you are unhappy – you are missing a second of happiness.
Hopefully our days will be filled with many more moments of happiness than unhappiness.
That’s what we do for our donors when we align their dreams with the needs of an organization and then keep reporting to them what they made possible. It’s called the joy of giving for a reason. Help your donors choose happiness.
Other than checking in with family members, I totally disconnected last week while on vacation and it was wonderful. I highly recommend it for everyone. I was surprised how easy it was. Of course, it helped that we were in a very secluded area (see picture – beautiful right?) with no television . We did have wifi but I resisted the urge to look at any social media or check emails.
There were many benefits for me from disconnecting but what I noticed the most was having clarity – having a clear mind. This gave me space.
Try this exercise to understand what I experienced:
Visualize your mind as an empty oval. Now fill one-third with all the letters of the alphabet. This represents your emails and other correspondance that you are reading and replying to on a daily basis. Fill another third of the oval with dollar signs $$$$. This represents your income and expenses. The last third of the oval is filled with stick figures. This represents family and friends.
Now take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
As you breathe out, visualize the letters, the $$$, and the stick figures being blown out with each breath. With each breath out, you can see more space becoming available in your oval. Eventually, it will be an empty space. Do you feel peaceful? Hopefully you do.
If not, try the exercise again and concentrate on the visualization. When you can visualize the space in your mind – that is clarity. When you have clarity, you have the opportunity to dream. This is where questions may be answered, solutions to problems may be provided, and revelations may appear.
Create space in your mind and opportunities will present themselves.
Give your heart more so you have more time in the world.
These words were just spoken to me by a loved one that is suffering from dementia. I usually can’t make much sense out of our conversations but I felt that this was perhaps one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard.
Give your heart more…
What is the essence of our existence? Love. To love, we must connect to our most inner being – our soul. We connect to our souls by being present. When we can be present, we are allowing space for our hearts to accept love. When we open our hearts, love will be found.
…so you have more time in the world.
Time here isn’t something measurable. Time here is something meaningful. Open your heart to love and create meaning in your life. Do something meaningful and it will fill your heart but, it is also creating your legacy. A legacy is infinite.
Our donors are looking for ways to create more meaning in their lives. They want to be connected to the work of the organization they are donating to. They wouldn’t have made a gift if their hearts weren’t already open. They recognize the connection – that is love.
The stronger the connection – the more the donor will want to do. Fill their hearts even more by showing them the difference they are making. Tell them a story of someone they helped – even better if they can meet that person. Have that person write a letter to the donor. If it’s a child that benefitted from their gift, have them draw a picture to send to the donor.
Statistics are great but they don’t fill a heart with love. That can only come from human connections. Fill your donor’s hearts and they will continue to build their legacy.
Give your heart more so you have more time in the world.
I listened to a podcast recently that one of the participants defined grace, as “not saying what you shouldn’t say”. She expressed that grace is to recognize when you are about to say something hurtful – and you don’t say it.
Oh my goodness! There are so many times I could have used grace in that way. Instead, I let my emotions take over and the words blurted out. As soon as the words came out – I regretted it, but it was too late.
I now try to make a conscious effort to pause before saying something that I know may be hurtful. I may think it – but I won’t say it. There are still times I fail. It takes practice.
I also think that grace is saying things you should say. In particular, to express the thoughts and feelings related to compassion and empathy.
I love you.
I understand what you are going through.
How can I help you?
I know you are doing the best that you can.
I am so grateful.
The more we exercise our grace by verbally expressing our personal compassion and empathy, the more intuitive we will be with our donors. Not everyone can easily express his or her thoughts and emotions. Sometimes they need help. But we can’t help others, until we master it ourselves.
Make a conscious effort every day to practice grace – both by not saying what is hurtful and, by verbally expressing your compassion and your empathy. You’ll find that it eases your mind and spirit and nurtures your intuition to recognize grace in others.