As If By Magic

I may have confessed this before. I am a creature of habit. As such, I am extraordinarily consistent in the things I do. Every single day, for example, I clean the house. I don’t necessarily do it well, but I do it daily. My house, despite two very furry dogs, is never really dirty or particularly messy because I regularly dust and vacuum and put things away. My husband, on the other hand, though inconstant in the things he does, is precise in what he does (one could learn to hate him except he is so sweet and good—and is a fantastic baker). So when he cleans, he takes everything off the counter and cleans it thoroughly. When he vacuums, furniture is moved, rugs picked up. It’s amazing. But (you knew there would be one of these) he only does this occasionally. So if I go out of town for a few weeks, I come home to a mess. When he goes away, he comes back to a clean house.

OK, so I get the Betty Crocker award and he doesn’t. Not really. My point here is not about house cleaning (though, neurotic as I am, I don’t think it’s a bad topic). It is about the value of doing things over and over again; getting better at them, yes, but also over time this consistency will ensure that you accomplish what you need to.

Successful fundraising operations have a few things in common. The biggest is that they consistently are identifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding donors. And while they do these things in many ways, the commonality is that they do them over and over and over again—typically at the same times.

The direct mail appeals go out at the same times every year; the gala is on the same weekend or, at the very least, in the same month; grant deadlines are noted and met. This consistency is critical for success. In fact, I’ll clearly assert that a mediocre development plan consistently worked will bring in far greater rewards than random acts of brilliance.

My sister talks of two friends of hers. One was sort of dull in school, and no one thought she would attain a lot. The other was, is, brilliant. But the dullard was also a plodder who constantly did what she needed to do to get good grades, get into a good college then a fine medical school and ended up a shining star in her field.

The other never felt the need to study or plan or think beyond today. And in high school that served her well. It didn’t even hurt her too much in college, but while she did all right, she never shone because she never considered the consequences of her actions or thought though what she needed to do.

Too many nonprofits rely on their wonderful mission, the incredible work they do and think that by itself that is enough.

So often I hear, “When they see what we do and learn about our story, the money will come.”

But the money doesn’t come, because there is no plan to ensure that “they” are identified, connected, and asked to help support this fabulous work.

Fundraisers need to be creatures of habit. Do things consistently and you will be amazed at how that gap you are always trying to fill disappears, as if by magic.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to "magically" increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the monthly newsletter.  And ask for your free 30 minute consultation.