FUNdrais­ing Good Times: The right to be wrong

South Florida Times - - BUSINESS - By “Fundrais­ing is known for its abun­dance of fail­ures and few suc­cesses.” Mel and Pearl Shaw


We can’t re­call who said this, but we know it is true. Yet many peo­ple think oth­er­wise. Plans are cre­ated; goals are set. Most are fo­cused on “in­cre­men­tal growth.” Maybe it’s a lit­tle more direct mail. Or maybe a change in spon­sor­ship lev­els for a spe­cial event. Some may try to launch an on­line giv­ing pro­gram – but won’t in­vest enough to get mean­ing­ful re­sults. It’s chal­leng­ing for non­prof­its to try things that might fail for the be­lief is that re­sources are too tight.

Here’s our ques­tion: Can non­prof­its at­tract the re­sources needed to ful­fill their mis­sion with­out tak­ing risks? We are “pro-risk” and with this col­umn en­cour­age you to take a risk, oth­er­wise known as “the right to be wrong.”

Here are some things to con­sider: Fund de­vel­op­ment by its nature is a risky busi­ness. Lead­er­ship has to be self-as­sured: you have to know your craft, and un­der­stand your com­mu­nity.Your team should be well in­formed and trained, es­pe­cially those who will in­ter­act with board lead­er­ship, vol­un­teers, and donors.

Take the risk of be­ing trans­par­ent and ac­count­able with your board, staff and donors. Share the truth, es­pe­cially when you are tak­ing a risk. Let your team know that what you are propos­ing is new, and might not work out the way you an­tic­i­pate. Ask for their guid­ance and sug­ges­tions. Ask them to share the chal­lenges that you may not be see­ing. Make your risk a “we” risk.

Be open to learn from each other. Trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity can fos­ter an open­ness that al­lows board mem­bers to learn from the staff team, and for staff to be open to learn­ing from the board.

Be hon­est – let it be known that what you are at­tempt­ing can be risky for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. But don’t blindly jump off a cliff. Put in place a se­ries of mile­stones, mon­i­tor­ing pro­cesses, and eval­u­a­tions so you can ad­just when nec­es­sary. Re­cruit out­side ob­servers who do not have a dog in the race, to be “ob­jec­tive” and help you to make ad­just­ments when nec­es­sary.

You want to dis­cour­age fin­ger point­ing if – or when – things don’t go as planned. The great equal­iz­ers, when at­tempt­ing risky ac­tiv­i­ties, are lead­er­ship, vi­sion, in­tel, and plan­ning.

Our sug­ges­tion: Go for it! Take a shared risk. Re­mem­ber, not be­ing suc­cess­ful doesn’t mean you’re wrong. And any­way, you have the right to be wrong.

Mel and Pearl Shaw be­lieve in risk tak­ing and the power of non­prof­its. If you want help grow­ing your fundrais­ing, call them at (901) 522-8727 or visit www.saadand­

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