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Recipe for luck

publication date: Nov 10, 2014
author/source: Bill Kennedy
Bill KennedyLuck and her twin sister, timing, play a huge and often unacknowledged role in the success of fundraising.  A campaign happens to coincide with a major news tragedy, priming people to take action.  A new fundraising idea takes off, bringing in much more than expected.  Someone decides to run across Canada to support your cause, capturing people’s hearts and donations.

On the other end of the spectrum, planned events can fizzle and campaign results can be lacklustre.  Sometimes the lack of success can be attributed to problems with planning and execution. But often, the results come down to luck and timing.

Obviously, you can’t predict the unpredictable, but you can have plans in place for when luck (good or bad) enters the scene.
Focus externally

1. Analyze success – People pay more attention to their failures than to their successes.  With a failure they ask, “What happened?” “What do we need to do differently next time?”  Ask those same questions of your successes.  Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that things went according to plan just because the money came in.

2. Plan for extremes – Dream about what you’d do if your fundraiser brought in ten times the goal, paying particular attention to the possibility that next year might be a dud.  Donors want to see consistency year to year, but the reality is that fundraising can be lumpy, with significant variations in success.  Plan how to take advantage of success and ride through the lean years.  

3. Get noticed – Most people who work for charities are deeply but quietly committed to their work and the goals of the organization.  You have to really get to know them before you notice their passion.  It may feel uncomfortable to show your passionate side, but that’s exactly what you have to do.  Passionate people attract attention. 

4. Get out more – It sounds so obvious, but if you want to raise money, you have to talk to new people with money.  You won’t get lucky limiting yourself to your current supporters and other people who work in the charitable sector.

5. Say yes – “When someone calls me,” says Jane Rounthwaite, a Toronto charity consultant and President of the Osborne Group, “I always take the call.  

You never know what will come of it.”  Be open to opportunities.  Imagine how the other person’s ideas might work.  At the same time, be ruthless about committing your time and resources.  It’s a balancing act.

Play defensively

1. Stay in the game – The longer you are around, the more chances you have of getting lucky.  Plan for the worst.  Know what you will do if the funding doesn’t come through, if the event tanks or if a key supporter leaves.

2. Protect your core – It is much easier to grow than shrink, so be careful about offering full-time permanent positions to everyone on the team.  If your program exists on short-term or one-time funding, don’t put the organization at risk by entering into long-term commitments.

Finally, being passionate is an important part of fundraising, but you have to rule with your head.  Be humble in success and, just as importantly, don’t let failure get you down.  Admit it, there was a certain amount of luck involved.

For a more comprehensive look at strategic financial planning for charities, join us for a free lunch and learn webinar. Bill Kennedy is a Certified Professional Accountant who works as a consultant helping charities get what they need from their systems and people.

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