When you get involved with a major fundraising campaign, you’ll hear lots of clichés. One of the most frequent you’ll hear is that a fundraising campaign is like a marathon. Pace yourself. Save some energy for the back half of the race.
There’s wisdom and truth to that statement, which is probably why it became a cliché in the first place. However, because a marathon and a fundraising campaign are both very long, there are many opportunities for good weeks and bad weeks. Your emotions can rise and fall many times before you cross the finish line.
Unfortunately, when emotions fall, people, even those on your fundraising team, can become discouraged, and that discouragement can eventually morph into pessimism. That can put an end to your fundraising dreams.
So, as a non-profit leader, you need to focus some of your energy on making sure your core fundraising team doesn’t get down in the dumps. Here are some suggestions for keeping their spirits high and their efforts productive, if you find yourself going through one of those dry spells.
1. First, before you even launch your fundraising campaign, make sure you set realistic goals. I mean, it’s alright to think big, but if your goal is unrealistic, you are almost setting your team up for failure. That can lead them to feel bad about their chances for success. So, while you want to push and stretch and challenge your people to achieve the impossible, make sure you don’t set the bar so high, that they’ll get discouraged three-quarters of the way through the campaign and effectively quit.
2. Second, no matter what, don’t let your staff and volunteers see you moping around, depressed about the lack of progress. Even if you are nowhere near your goal, don’t give your people a reason to abandon hope. You know they are probably nervous themselves, and if their leader expresses doubt or worry, it gives everybody permission to freak out. Once you’ve let that happen, it’s very hard to walk your true feelings back; people will just think you’re trying to cover up your honest thoughts of impending doom. So, never give them that opportunity.
3. Third, set incremental milestones toward your ultimate goal. Evenly space these milestones out, so that you are continually having something to celebrate and to look forward to. This way, the people working for your organization will be focusing on achieving the next reachable benchmark, without getting overwhelmed by how far they really have to go. Remember how to climb a mountain? One step at a time.
4. Fourth, if your supporters are starting to waiver in their confidence, take a few minutes to point out all the past successes your organization has achieved. Remind them of all the golf outings, dinner auctions, letter writing campaigns, car washes, bottle drives, and walk-a-thons that met their individual goals. These past victories will inspire your team and give them confidence going forward. Tell them that your organization is a proven winner with great supporters. You just know they won’t let you down now!
5. Fifth, I would take the time to set up short meetings with the individuals on your fundraising team to give them pep talks. While big group rallies are exciting, if you can actually look someone in the eye and get them personally motivated, you’ll have a very excited worker on your hands. Your energy, your confidence, and your belief in the cause will transfer to them and carry them through any waves of despair.
6. Lastly, I would make sure that the entire fundraising team saw and heard me celebrate each individual donation. Don’t let them and don’t let yourself lose sight of the fact that every single dollar is a building block toward your goal and will go to help someone in need. That’s a blessing and a gift. Never diminish a single dollar raised. If your team sees that you are truly thankful for every single financial contribution that comes in, they will tend to focus on the positive and keep pushing forward, while ignoring their feelings of apprehension.