Doggedly Successful

Barbara Clegg  a much wiser coach than I is clear that if the coach is working harder than the client, the coaching isn’t working.  In theory I believe that, but in practice, I find that is not always true. Granted, I do more consulting than pure coaching, so my work is not always one-on-one.  Just getting the group (whoever that is comprised of) together can be hard work.  In fact, getting my clients to use me is probably the hardest part of the work I do.

Many of my clients work at or are small nonprofit organizations or, in the case of many of my education clients, very small development offices within a larger organization.  And therein lies the issue.

Fundraising-wise, these organizations are not where they want or need to be.  I am hired to help them get there.  They know they need this help; that’s why they hired me, and yet they cannot seem to commit to taking the time to get my help.

It’s very, very frustrating.

At first, I thought it must be me.  If only I were a smarter consultant, I wouldn’t have this problem.  But years of doing this and talking with colleagues all across the country have convinced me that unless the work you are hired to do has a built in time-regulator (a campaign, a board retreat, a grant deadline), you often feel as if you are spitting in the wind.

Today, for example, I finally heard back from one of my clients who apologized for not responding in a timely fashion. That is quite the understatement.  She has been incommunicado for at least two months. In that time, I’ve sent at least 5 emails and left the same number of voice messages.  That’s time clients pay for—which does not get them where they need to go.

This client hadn’t called back because they were in crisis.  Their fundraising program—the one they hired me to improve—hadn’t raised enough and she was frantically trying (and not succeeding) to find needed funds.  Wouldn’t it have made sense to spend the time developing and implementing the new program?  That may not have any better immediate success, but the odds for the future would have been far higher.

It’s not always a crisis that keeps clients from doing the hard work of building up their capacity.  It’s like any other thing you know you should do, but resist:  the diet, going to the gym, studying when you were in school. All the things that are necessary for your success seem to be the hardest to stick to.

And that, my friends, is the secret of successfully working with a consultant—and for successful fundraising and almost anything else.  Stick-to-it-ness.  My clients who regularly meet with me, and at each meet agree to and meet deadlines and benchmarks for next steps, are astounded at their successes.  I’m not.  I’ve been at this long enough to know that pure doggedness works.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  She credits consistency—what her husband calls her obsessiveness—for helping to build her business as well as her clients.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the free newsletter.