My first winter in Kentucky, we had a pretty major ice storm. It was beautiful, but treacherous. The limbs on the trees were pressed down with the weight of the ice – to the extent that it looked like the world was covered with weeping willows. One afternoon I took the dog for a walk in the park, but soon realized that being under all of those trees was not a great idea. While there was no wind, no rain and no discernible reason for it, randomly you would hear a crack and one of the limbs would come crashing down. While the limbs were able to bend, over time the weight just became too much.
In The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, the author talk about that point where all of the hard work and pushing up the hill pays off by suddenly finding it’s own momentum and finally seeing significant results and a significant payoff.
Any time we’re starting something new, we have to lay the groundwork and we have to pay our dues. Sure, there are shortcuts available by bringing in people who’ve been where you are now (and have been where you want to go) and ways to jump start the process. However, it takes time to determine the plan, lay the groundwork, start building relationships and involving the right people in the process and get started.
However, it seems that sometimes in the nonprofit world we think that those rules don’t apply. That somehow there will be a magical solution where the money suddenly appears because of the work of one miracle worker.
Don’t be afraid of the hard work. And don’t give up 5 minutes shy of your tipping point. It gets darkest right before the dawn – and your work will probably get more difficult before it gets easier. But the dawn is coming.
So what are the basics to have in place as you’re starting your fundraising plan? Here are just a few thoughts:
- First, reconnect with your vision – that big idea about how the world could – and should – be. Is your board on the same page?
- Second, recruit a few people to work with you. Fund development is a team activity and you’ll benefit from having others with you.
- Next, identify the needs in the community that make your organization essential. Develop a message around how your community will change as a result of your work.
- Finally, develop your plan. Include interim goals (such as the numbers of people to ask and the percentage of people who say yes). This will provide encouragement when you feel like you’re not getting results.
So, are you ready? Are you willing?
You can do it. Really.