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03 Jun

Good Fundraising Practices are Like Dieting

I recently went on a diet or as my nutritionist would say, “changed my eating habits”, by essentially eating a fixed number of calories  averaged over the week and writing down everything I ate. As I have been adapting to my new reality, I have begun to think about how similar dieting is to fundraising. A funny comparison you might say but indulge me to explain what I mean.

Number 1: Both require setting realistic goals.

Deciding how much you want to loose and how long it will take you needs to take into account your age, stage, activity level and life-style. The one who will be most disappointed and discouraged if you fall short is you so it is best to be realistic.

With fundraising, it is also important to assess the feasibility of your campaign or target for an event based on history, likely donors, competition, the economy and star and work power. Setting realistic goals and managing expectations is crucial because your organization’s  budget and ability to carry out its work depends on it!

Number 2: Both need a system to track  information.

Study after study shows that people who write down what they eat loose more weight. Why? Because writing down everything you put in your mouth make you more conscious of what your are eating and of your calories. Some people use charts, some scribble on a napkin and yes, there are many apps and sites for tracking your calories for phones, tablets or computers.

Good fundraising practices require good information. The more you know about your donors and prospects, their giving histories, their involvement and interests, their personal lives and connections, the better off you are. And you need a system that is updated regularly for recording what you know whether it is Donor Pefect, Raiser’s Edge, eTapestry, Sage or an excel spreadsheet.

Number 3: Checking in and being accountable are keys to success for both.

For the first three four months of my “new eating habits” , I paid  for a nutritionist to come to my home weekly and weigh me in. If I knew she was coming on Tuesday, I knew it was time to tighten my belt and reign in my averaged calories by being extra good Sunday and Monday. Having a scheduled check in made me accountable.

Whether running fundraising campaigns or events, volunteers and professionals must be accountable for their assigned solicitations and have scheduled, regular check-ins. Peoples lives are busy and even those with the best intentions, need a reminder and a push.

Number 4: Both are about good habits and are continuous.

The reason why nutritionists don’t like the term “diet” is because is connotes  something that is for a finite period of time. Rather, they prefer clients to “change their eating habits “and “adopt healthy lifestyles”  for the rest of their lives by giving them the tools to make good choices.

Truly successful fundraising isn’t about one event or one campaign. It isn’t finite. It is about long-term, on-going relationships and cultivation. The best fundraisers I know have good habits. These habits include email check-ins, scheduled coffees, lunches or drinks when there is no “ask”,  acknowledgement of  life-cycle events and other business and communal achievements with donors and continual prospecting.

A final note, in fundraising and dieting, it feels great to hit your goals!

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