“Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
– Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point
The other day I was having dinner with a friend trying to explain the work we do as fundraisers, and in my case, as a consultant to charities. I explained to him that many people in our field are new to fundraising. They come from a variety of practice areas, but none of which is specific to the work that they are being tasked to do. Successful fundraisers, in particular, major gift officers, become excellent in what they do by having great mentors/coaches and by going out every week and seeing donors. I somewhat liken it to the scene in the movie “Karate Kid,” where Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi about becoming great in karate, and he shows him that the practice of painting and washing his cars has trained him. Remember. . . wax on, wax off.
Since I’ve been in this business, I’ve joined executives, board members, volunteers, and development officers, on over 4,000 visits with donors and donor prospects. I am always learning something new on a visit. In the work we do as consultants, we transfer this knowledge to our clients to help them learn. It would be easier at times if we did it ourselves or just had the volunteers do it as many firms suggest, but how has the organization gained a knowledge platform of the “how?” It’s by being with someone who can guide you, strategize with you, and analyze what works for you and what doesn’t.
So back to my friend. I was explaining what we do as a firm (he is a developer), and he then said, “Oh, it’s like driving.” I asked him what he meant, and he told me that everyone knows how to drive, but it’s how you navigate along the way that gets you there safely. Of course, my thought is how many people do you know who think fundraising is easy. How hard can it be? Really? Maybe that is why when Executive Directors put an ad for fundraising professionals, they get everyone applying regardless of experience.
So how do you navigate your way to the goal? Do you have someone who you can go to who has done it for years and can give you good counsel? Webinars are great, but they are one-directional. You’ll never learn how to drive from your home to work or anywhere without someone sitting beside you, teaching you how to navigate. And you know I would be happy to help you.
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