Albert Einstein once said, “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it is two hours.”
These days, I think lots of people are looking for a nice place to sit where they can use their experience and education and find enjoyment.
Fundraisers and philanthropists are no different.
Rather than folding up your fundraising efforts during this pandemic, why not turn it into an opportunity to help others find their strengths, connect with your mission and make a difference. You might learn something about yourself in the process.
It’s a good bet that prior to March, you never heard the phrase shelter at home, let alone thought it would ever apply to you. Now we’re in the middle of this new normal with a target end-date that moves as quickly as COVID-19 seems to spread.
The situation has me thinking about how different shelter at home must be for each of us.
I live in the middle of 12 acres of woods with plenty of room to roam without ever getting close to a neighbor. My friends in larger cities don’t have that same luxury – their lives look entirely different. The definition of “home” is so deeply personal, even people living in the same house might have vastly different images.
In the mid-1990s, I found new context for my definition of “home” while serving as fundraising counsel for Habitat for Humanity International’s first large-scale capital campaign. Now, as I advise my current nonprofit partners in responding to COVID-19, I find myself leaning on those valuable lessons.
First, a simple, decent and safe home makes a world of difference, especially children who need this to thrive. During this crisis, it’s more important than ever that organizations serving the homeless children share their message. Make sure your communities know your services are continuing and are critical for ensuring defenseless children have the same opportunity as the rest of us to safely shelter at home.
In fact, no matter what your organization’s mission, DO NOT STOP fundraising. Be empathetic to what your donors are experiencing while also being clear and concise about your organization’s needs. It’s our job to let people know how they can help, not make the decision for them.
Second, celebrate the fact that you help people when you give them the chance to help, and for some that means making a charitable gift. Habitat for Humanity’s model puts the recipients of philanthropy working alongside the philanthropist. Most of the philanthropists will tell you they feel they received much more from the experience than they contributed, including the lifelong lesson that “giving is at the heart of living.” The opportunity to give lift spirits and gives deeper meaning to the life of the donor. As a fundraiser, you are the conduit that connects people to the causes they care about most.
Third, not everyone can be a nurse who helps the sick, an electrician who wires a house or a plumber who fixes a leaky faucet. But just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean it brings you joy. As a classic overachiever, there are many things I do well that I simply do not enjoy – paperwork and book-keeping are classic examples!
A few years ago, I was introduced to Marcus Buckingham’s work on “Strength Based Team Development” https://youtu.be/czsEJGJnPAY and it dramatically changed what I consider my strengths. Marcus suggests that what you are good at is an ability, but a strength is something that makes you stronger.
In my experience, this especially applies to fundraising professionals who often wear many hats, some of which are important to raising money and frankly, some that are not.
While sheltering at home, this might be a great time to explore your own strengths.
- Make a list of everything you did for your job in the last two weeks. I suspect that the list is different in light of the pandemic.
- Next to each activity write whether your loved it or loathed it.
- Add to the list other things you would enjoy doing but do not yet have the experience, education or ability to do.
- Chart your strengths on a simple four-quadrant graph:
- Once your activities are charted, think about actions you could take to allow more time for the activities that you do well and enjoy.
- Consider asking your co-workers to complete a similar exercise. You may find that you are doing things that you loath that someone else might enjoy and do better than you.
You could also consider these questions:
- How would your board members react to charting their activities for your organization? Would they put more activities in the high energy/highly capable or the highly capable/draining quadrants?
- Do you think your donors would recognize things that they do for your organization as high energy/enjoyment?
- How about your volunteers and other constituents?
They say necessity is the mother of invention and right now we need leaders who not only understand their own strengths but can help their team members, co-workers, partners, and constituents leverage their strengths during these stressful times.
They’ll be stronger, you’ll be stronger, and our world will be stronger as a result.
KRISTINA CARLSON, CFRE
Managing Director, Carter Global
For more than 30 years, Kristina Carlson, CFRE has guided nonprofit institutions in their efforts to secure major gifts and other resources necessary to make a significant impact. She is a proven leader, an entrepreneur, an author of the best-selling Essential Principles for Fundraising Success, and an in-demand speaker at national and international conferences and workshops. As Managing Director with Carter, Kristina works to inspire philanthropists, volunteers, nonprofit leaders, and development professionals to do more by defining and focusing on mission-critical activities, creating systems of accountability, and experiencing the joy of philanthropy.