The Next Best Thing

By now, you've all heard that famous quote from Einstein about how insane it is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome. And yet, we all do that. I won't call out nonprofits for doing it more than any other group, but I will note that they are among those who in the face of disaster, keep on bailing water into that sinking boat.There's an exercise I often do when training--to see if, within your name, you can find letters that spell another word that describes you or what you bring to the table. The purpose of this, of course, is to get the group to begin looking at familiar things in new and different ways. Try it. See if you can see yourself in a new light. Instead of say, Edward, be the person who dares. Rather than Barbara Smith, be smart (enough to do something new). And then think what that person with the new identity might do. For example, if your old self is a nay-sayer--the person who always figures out why something won't work, try being the one who finds ways to make that thing a success. That will require that you look at it from a different angle, in a different way. If you have snuggled into your comfort zone, climb out. Do something you hate. Make those difficult phone calls, get out from behind your computer and actually talk with people. And push yourself to ask them to do something hard. Maybe not hard for them, I hasten to add--though that would not necessarily be a bad thing--but hard for you. Hard to do always brings me to fundraising. We often find asking for money to be among the most difficult of acts. So instead, focus on the amazing (or even the everyday) things your organization accomplishes, and talk about why that matters. Tell the person with whom you are speaking why you care--share your values and how this work magnifies them. Ask what matters to them. Match your organization's outcomes to their passions. Instead of asking them for something, open a door and invite them in. Take a look at your fundraising program. You do have a program, right? One with a written plan that has dates, actions, owners? If not, that's the first thing you should consider doing differently. And, yes yes yes, we are all busy. But you will be less so with more success if you take the time to consider how you will accomplish your work and reach success. Your changes don't have to be big. One year, I simply asked board members to take a time slot being greeters at the check-in for our gala. To say hello to each and every person who signed in and chat a bit about how happy they were that this person was there--and how excited they were about our organization. The feedback from attendees and board members was amazing. What was even more amazing for me was the number of board members who volunteered to go with me on follow up calls. They felt that they may have met this person and so were willing to be part of the equation. Those follow up calls? If you are not doing them....put that on your list of doing things differently. In fundraising, it's generally what you do next that matters the most.

Janet Levine helps nonprofits build their fundraising capacity.  Learn how at