The Rarefied Air of Fundraising

Having been in the fundraising profession for a significant number of years, I take time to pause and reflect during this Labor Day as the Summer of 2017 quickly heads out to sea.

Having the opportunity to have worked with some impressive fundraising leaders and some not so impressive folks during 40+ years in fundraising, I offer some advice and thoughts to individuals entering our profession:

Find a Mentor

Find a mentor for whom you have the highest respect and seek out his/her expertise and knowledge, work hard to cultivate that relationship, and continually ask for their advice. No matter how bright we may think we personally are, we all need someone with whom we can bounce and test our ideas with … someone who is always there with a valid and respected second opinion.

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Your Beliefs are Crucial

Self-awareness is everything. You need to know who you are and stick to your beliefs, no matter how tough the going may get. You must have conviction in your beliefs and move forward, taking action to turn belief into reality. Trust your gut! It will very rarely fail you, if at all. Impressive accomplishments are not easily attained ... there are many critics out there, and you must realize that and stay the course.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Focus is so important to attaining your goals, whether it be your Annual Fund, Major Gifts Program, Planned Giving efforts or those Capital Campaigns that can be transformational to your nonprofit. It is amazing how talented fundraisers start off with "fire in their belly", but they don't have the perseverance to bring the goal home and cross the finish line. They attain success but not to the heights they could have if they just would have had the focus and drive to stay on task..

Respect the Past Accomplishments of Others

There are many people who have done some pretty impressive work in our field to make a difference for their organizations over the years. Take the time to listen to them and learn from their accomplishments. Develop an innate sensitivity for the history of your nonprofit and the efforts made by people that were both successful and unsuccessful in taking your organization to where it is presently.

Give credit where credit is due and preserve the organization’s heritage – it is often the "soul" that will carry you to more success in the future. I have professionally encountered many individuals that think “it’s all about me” and in 45 years of advancement work, there’s not been a single case where that mantra is true. It’s never about us…never. Everyone is in this pulling together to make your organization a "special" place. Have sensitivity and respect for those who helped your nonprofit attain its current stature as you attempt to build an even grander empire.

Reinvent: Read, Research and Continue to Grow Intellectually.

Take time daily in the morning or evening, away from the office to read books and articles. Attend lectures and webinars. Read all types of topics – not just fund development. The more you expand your brain the more effective you will become as you deal with your donors and leadership as you help them attain their dreams.

Enjoy this Labor Day as we head into the Fall of 2017,where we will continue to make a difference for the people we serve.

I close with a quote: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friends, continue to soar in that rarified air as you keep making a difference for the people you serve.

NOTE: Gary Bukowski is a C&A guest blogger and Associate VP for Advancement at Sarah A. Reed Children's Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.