I love this Buddhist Dung Beetle proverb: “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on rolling!” And the picture below by Steve Jackson sort of sums up how most of us feel on any given day.
Notice the little sign in the background: “Dung profits up 140%!!” I think we could all believe that. There is certainly plenty of it to go around – even in the major gift world we all live in. I mean, think about it. We all have to deal with:
- having to spend hours researching donor information.
- managers who don’t think we need support.
- demands for increased revenue production.
- donors who are demanding.
- voices in our heads that tell us we’re not going to make it.
- meetings we have to go to that have very little to do with our caseload.
- office politics and bureaucracy.
- angry and frustrated donors.
- systems that don’t work.
- program funding changes.
- people who believe that all that Major Gift people do is run around and have fun.
- donors who don’t answer the phone or email.
- donors who change their minds.
And the list could go on forever IF we wanted to focus on the stuff that is tedious, boring and challenging in our work. I find that many MGOs actually do that – as do their managers. They spend their entire lives focusing on the negative. It’s no wonder they are not successful.
The fact is that in any human endeavor most of the effort is more about plodding through than maintaining a constant high. It really does take a great deal of energy to get things done and to achieve success. And that’s why Jeff and I talk about all the “boring” things you must do to find a successful path in your major gift work. Boring things like:
- getting in touch with donors to qualify them. One of the MGOs of a client of ours, whose only task right now is to build a caseload, sent me an email yesterday saying, “I stopped by the homes and/or businesses of 171 donors between Thanksgiving and Christmas, had 42 terrific face to face donor visits and a discovered a wealth of information about many of the other donors I didn’t actually get a chance to speak with. It was an exhausting but very fruitful month!”
- researching the donors
- spending hours trying to get in touch with donors, then often listening, hopefully with a compassionate ear and heart, to their concerns and problems.
- missing revenue projections and feeling anxious about it while we develop an alternate plan.
- working with program folks to get information for an ask or to report back.
- sitting and writing when you could be out of the office.
- having to deal with management and team members who you feel do not understand or support you or, at best, are indifferent to what you are going through.
- constantly looking at your contact priorities to make sure you are talking to the right donors.
- traveling great distances and working off hours.
But all of this work must be done in order to be successful. Money will not just drop into your hands. You know that. And that is why you must persevere through the grueling day to day of your major gift work.
Webster defines perseverance as a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
My message to you today is to accept the fact that many of your work days will be grueling and tough. And that’s OK.
I am also suggesting that you embrace those grueling days, the difficulties, the failures, the opposition and the tedious. Don’t run from them. Don’t devalue them. Embrace them as a very real and human part of being successful in major gifts. And if you do this, you will be acknowledging the truth that most of your work will not be high excitement, high energy, high payoff activity. This “attitude/work philosophy adjustment” will reframe your day and your view of life. Believe me.
Then, with this new mindset, adopt a work style of perseverance – of working through the tedious and boring to get to your objective. You know you are facing the right direction. Now, keep rolling. As the picture below so eloquently states – the path to success is perseverance.
What is your focus today? How will you face the grueling tasks before you? I hope you will persevere through it all on your path to connecting your good donors with all the things that bring THEM joy. That is the real pay off and it is a guaranteed source of joy and fulfillment for you as well.