Major Gifts Fundraising – Proudly in the Forever Business is nonprofit veteran Jim Eskin’s take on a deeply rooted fundraising principle. Here’s what Jim has to share about perseverance:
I once read the Smithsonian describe itself as a forever institution. It genuinely struck a responsive chord, and I loved its meaning. Dating back to 1846, the Smithsonian qualifies and then some.
The nonprofit sector with 1.5 million different organizations of all different sizes and addressing every conceivable mission is richly diverse and as varied as the stakeholders and populations that they serve.
But all these organizations also share profound similarities. At the top of the list, I would place their commitment to persist and be a lasting part of a vast social sector that provides solutions in the health, education, economic development, cultural, human services and other important arenas for the long run.
This persistence characteristic is certainly core to success in fundraising and resource development.
Winning nonprofits aren’t interested in transactional short-term relationships based on one-time gifts. Those will not sustain forever organizations. In fact, I once heard relationships defined as something you have until something better comes along.
Instead, nonprofits earn, sustain and grow donor loyalty by demonstrating long-term alignment with the shared interests, values and priorities of cherished friends who provide precious gifts of time, talent and treasure. This opens the door to friendships (not relationships) that can endure setbacks. Eyes are firmly fixed on the future success of the mission of the non-profit.
The pandemic tested American philanthropy like it’s never been tested before. It was tested in virtually every way possible — financial solvency, ability to communicate and congregate, and capacity to deliver much needed programs and services.
American philanthropy and non-profits delivered. They not only kept pace with performance of the recent past but were able to forge ahead and actually provide more assistance to those who are struggling.
Nonprofits are led by men and women who do not shirk, but instead embrace, challenges to improve the lot of others.
This makes sense. You don’t choose to work or volunteer in the social sector because you want an easy ride. Rather, it’s probably the most challenging work you could possibly choose. The financial rewards in the private sector are typically greater.
Professional and volunteer non-profit leaders are fueled by passion and deeply held convictions in their visions of a better world.
A profound reflection point in philanthropy is: Can one person make a difference?
As a fundraising trainer/consultant I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working closely with many inspiring heroes such as an extraordinary leader in San Antonio named Jasmin Dean, who has put an exclamation point on “absolutely.” We recently featured her in our webinar series. Step-by-step, I’ve watched her methodically launch a visionary non-profit called Celebrate Dyslexia that commits to a strength-based approach to an issue with a negative stigma that afflicts one out of every five of us. Inspired by her three sons who have dyslexia, she has expanded access to and become an incubator for best practices in education through the integration of structured literacy, social/emotional support systems, technological innovations, and critical services designed to support the dyslexic learner and their entire family. By forging strategic partnerships with school districts, museums, theater groups, plus local, state and national thought leaders, this work is expanding the dyslexic community’s body of knowledge and saturating communities with well trained teachers and students who will go on to become leaders. Huge progress has been made so that families with children with dyslexia will be better positioned to handle the multitude of challenges and opportunities they must face.
During the webinar I asked her to estimate how much time she has devoted to turning the dream of her nonprofit into reality. She estimated an awesome 10,000 hours over the last three years. Jasmin’s example reminds us that yes, indeed, one person can make a difference in the world. Far from slowing down to rest on past laurels, Jasmin is truly just getting started in her journey. This is another shining example of a non-profit being in the forever business. Jasmin is far from being alone. I’ve seen hundreds of people like her in action. They are genuinely unsung heroes. They will not be deterred. Instead, they will persist no matter what the challenge is.
Non-profits can earn the title of being in the forever business whether they are 100 years old or just three years old.
It’s their commitment to stick with it no matter what. Some people call it grit. In the northeast it was called moxie, but nothing will scare non-profit leaders away from their missions. If anything, adversity like the pandemic just toughened their resolve. Donors of time and money recognize their authenticity, and that’s why they choose to invest in them. They’re not going anywhere. That’s the beauty of being in the forever business.
Jim Eskin’s consulting practice, Eskin Fundraising Training builds on the success of his more than 150 fundraising workshops and webinars and provides the training, coaching and support services that nonprofits need to compete for and secure major gifts. He has authored 100 guest columns that have appeared in daily newspapers, business journals and blogs across the country, and publishes Stratagems, a monthly e-newsletter exploring timely issues and trends in philanthropy. Sign up here for a free subscription. He is author of 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, which can be purchased here.
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Major Gifts Fundraising – Proudly in the Forever Business was first posted at National Development Institute
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