Give It A Chance

Standing in front if a portrait of Erasmus by hands Holbein the younger at the National Gallery  in London brought me back  to high school days. Horrible days, but only slightly more so than the following four years of college. I was a slow developer. 

What troubled me most about those early years was my constant sense that I was missing it all. I felt that there--just out of my reach--it was waiting, if only I could figure out what it was. I never did, but over time I was able to find things that if not quite "it” felt close enough 

Close enough was something that took me years to accept. Wishing to be a perfectionist--which in my youth I thought was someone who effortlessly did things perfectly--I discovered the truth of the adage "beware if what you wish for."  My wish, made true, drove me to distraction. Nothing I did was ever good enough, until late in life I realized that if something was good then, most likely, it was enough. 

Freed from the need to be perfect, I found myself able to pursue something infinitely more productive--effectiveness. My work-sales, marketing, outreach, fundraising-brought satisfaction.  My work now--coaching, consulting--actually brings joy.

More to the point, I accomplish, I get things done.  And then I keep on doing those things that work.  Sometimes I just keep doing things that I think will work, unless and until I am sure that they won't. What I don't do is decide that something will not work without giving it a chance.

That's one of the big issues I face with some clients.  So sure are they that their Board won't; their prospects aren't; their donors will not and aren't interested, that they never test their assumptions.  A big part of what I do is to move them from saying no to at least contemplating yes.

Once you get to yes, you begin seeing all the possibilities.  And those possibilities bring probabilities.  In short, if you don’t ask, you won’t get.  Another way to look at it is that if you don’t give people an opportunity to support the important work you do—work that they, once they understand it, might consider important also—you are cheating a whole bunch of folks:  Yourself, your organization, the people your organization serves, your community, and yes, your prospects.

Like me in my younger years, many development directors feel that they are just missing it—that fundraising, as they know it should be occurring—is happening beyond their reach.  The vision of fundraising, something—anything—more than what they believe they can accomplish, instead of inspiring, dis-spirits.  When there is an understanding that fundraising is building relationships and providing opportunities for others to belong, becomes enabling.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and those responsible for fundraising be more effective.  Learn how she can help you and your organization at  While there, you can sign up for the free newsletter