Major Gifts Fundraisers Don’t Wait is Norman Gildin’s take on how successful development officers aggressively pursue big donors. Here’s what Norman has to share:
I remember reading a Samuel Beckett book during my college days titled “Waiting for Godot.” Beckett was an Irish novelist, short story writer, theatre director, poet and playwright. His most notable literary achievement, however, likely was “Waiting for Godot,” which on so many levels is a simple yet complex story. The play went through various iterations on Broadway and a well-known cast starred in the show including distinguished actors such as Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, John Goodman and other notables.
The plot focuses on two men – Vladimir and Estragon – who wait for the mysterious Godot near a tree. They engage in a hodge-podge of discussions, and while Godot sends word of his pending arrival he never does. The drama, among other things, represents a test of passivity, patience and boredom. This is a form of absurdist theatre partly because Godot never shows up and thus the men fail to fulfill their purpose in life.
The play always reminded me of the scratch-off lottery ticket holder. Always scratching off tickets but never winning. The potential of fortune is there, but, usually, no prize is in the offing. My apologies to those who have won something; the masses don’t. But, the game of chance holds promise for the future. Meantime, ticket holders wait, wait and wait. Their dreams are of winning the lottery one day. For the majority of us, that is the absurdity of it all.
It also reminds me of hopeless fundraisers – people who have endless patience but aren’t proactive and who assume the donor will find them. If only it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Donors don’t fall out of heaven as the manna did. You must seek them out, strategize on your approach, give them a good reason to support your cause and execute your plan. Reputation is good but you cannot rest on your laurels.
We can liken going to school to the fundraising officer who takes the initiative to make his or her lot in life. What we learn during our education or life is not transferred to us through osmosis. Knowledge isn’t a process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas. One has to work towards it and keep at it throughout our career and lifetime. One cannot wait for something momentous to happen by itself. In Ethics of our Fathers, Chapter 4, verse 18, one learns this lesson firsthand:
“Rabbi Nehorai said:
Exile yourself to a place of Torah and do not say it will come after you or that your colleagues will preserve it for you. ‘And do not rely on your own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5).”
The language in this verse is telling. We are instructed to “exile” ourselves to a place of study. Simply put, this means we must uproot ourselves and go elsewhere to a place where there will be scholars and the like who will teach and guide us. The saying teaches us that it won’t come seeking us out. It also tells us that there is a chain of understanding which is transmitted to us by our teachers. Again, it won’t happen by itself. We must actively pursue it.
Douglas McGregor, the social psychologist, developed contrasting management theories in the 1960s. Known as Theory X and Theory Y, he postulated that managers’ beliefs about what motivates their workers can affect their managing style. According to McGregor, Theory X put forward the idea that employees are not self-starters or self-motivated. As such, bosses need to micromanage their personnel to get the job done well.
Theory Y posited that people take pride in their labor and view it as a challenge and managers who use this approach can rely on their people to take charge of their work and do it effectively on their own. To be sure they possess an internal impetus mechanism. These folks don’t wait for someone else to get the job finished. They are serious about what needs to be accomplished and are results-oriented. When necessary, they can disrupt their routines in the workplace, and displace themselves but still get the task completed.
A colleague of mine was above all adept at always keeping her donor portfolio in active status. Her staff looked to her as a true role model because she made things happen. She was self-motivated to strategize and energetically implement her solicitation plans, not just being reactive or waiting for contributors to come to her. Instead, she was proactive. She once told me that her donors thanked her for reaching out to them often and arranging meetings to elicit gifts or show progress by the cause. She was the embodiment of Theory Y which is also why she was oftentimes successful in her fundraising.
So, I ask you this question Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Fundraiser: “Are you still waiting for Godot?” Just remember what a wise person once said: “Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.”
About the author: Norman B. Gildin is the author of the recently released book on nonprofit fundraising “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the President of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds for their organization. His website is at NormanGildin.com
Major Gifts Fundraisers Don’t Wait was first posted at Major Gifts Ramp-Up.
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