It might be more important to fail in fundraising as many ways as possible.
I picked up this book, This Will Make You Smarter and was pleasantly surprised at how many essays in this book could be applied to fundraising.
In Kevin Kelly’s essay in the book “This Will Make You Smarter” he writes about failure. He writes,
“What is science after all but a way to learn from things that don’t work, rather than just those that do? What this tool suggests is that you should aim for success while being prepared to learn from a series of failures. More so, you should carefully but deliberately press yours successful investigations or accomplishments to the point where they break, flop, stall, crash or fail.
Children in many parts of the world are taught that failure brings disgrace and that one should do everything in one’s power to succeed without failure. Yet the rise of west is in many respects due to the rise of tolerating failure. Failure liberates success.
The chief innovation that science brought to the state of defeat is a way to manage mishaps. Blunders are kept small, manageable, constant and trackable.
The habit of embracing negative results is one of the most essential tricks to gaining success.”
What would it look like if you could take this concept and embrace it in your fundraising office?
- You would send out as many appeal letters as possible.
- You would send out as many enewsletters as possible.
- You would buy advertising.
- You would hire that person that had been out of work for 6 months.
- You would partner with as many nonprofits as possible.
- You would try new kinds of events.
- You would talk to as many donors as possible.
- You would approach the most unlikely people to sit on your board.
- You would make as many major gifts “moves” as you possibly could.
In this way, you could find out very quickly what worked and what didn’t work for your donors.
Another concept worth taking from this book is Jonah Lehrer’s essay, Control Your Spotlight. What does this mean?
Many of us have heard about that 1960s study by Walter Mischel of 4-year olds crowded into a room with marshmallows, and they were told they could eat one marshmallow right away, but if they could wait 4 minutes, they could have 4 marshmallows instead of one. Mischel found that those who could delay their gratification did better in academics and in life. So the moral is delay your gratification, right?
Actually, the lesson of this study goes deeper than that. For all of the children that successfully delayed eating the marshmallow, they all focused their attention on something else, and concentrated on that until the 4 minutes were up.
Herbert Simon says, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
So in this age of information, what we choose to pay attention to becomes increasingly important.
Lehrer writes, “The brain is a bounded machine, and the world is a confusing place, full of data and distractions. Intelligence is the ability to parse the data so that it makes just a little bit more sense. Like willpower, this ability requires the strategic allocation of attention.”
So the lesson isn’t delayed gratification. How do you control your attention to focus on what matters in this moment, no matter how hard it is?
What does this make you want to do?