We've met a lot of non-profit professionals, all with different talents and personalities. There are 3 things that all the successful fundraisers we've met have in common, and it is not their sales skills.
The 3 C's of successful non-profit fundraisers are:
Successful people see competition as a good thing. Instead of feeling jealous or annoyed at their competitors, they use competition to motivate them. We believe in the law of abundance. The law of abundance tells us there are plenty of donors and funds to go around. Our "competitors" are on the same team as us under the law of abundance because we share a similar mission. Their work helps our work, and our work helps their work. We're friends with many of the people who could be considered competitors because we see them as inspiration, not a threat.
Athletes do this. They train with the athletes they compete against because they bring out the best in each other. It prevents complacency because their training buddies (or competitors) push them. You only reach elite levels when you train with the best, and the same goes for every area of life.
We celebrate the success of our competitors. That may seem odd to some, but someone else succeeding doesn't mean that you've failed. You can be happy about the success of your competitors and let it motivate you to succeed. Look at your competitor when they win the award and decide that it will be you next year.
Think about what happens when a company has a monopoly over something. For example, when there is only one company that provides water. They stagnate because no matter what they do, everyone must go to them. They don't have to innovate. When consumers, in our case donors, have a choice, it changes the game. You need to keep innovating and improving. It's very motivating. Non-profits are forced to be more purposeful with how they acquire donations and find new and creative ways to work with donors.
There's a misconception that creativity and talent are things you either have or don’t. If you look at the most talented or creative people in the world, they are the people who are willing to try things. Think about famous painters like Rembrandt or Monet, so many of their canvases never saw the light of day. The same goes for famous authors, they have entire books that they never release. This happens because they tried something and it didn't work, so they scrapped it. This is what you need to do too. If you try something and it doesn't work, scrap it, take what you learned from the experience and move on.
Modern fundraising requires you to get creative because there is so much competition. This is a good thing. Creativity has changed the face of fundraising in such a short period of time. Just a few years ago, fundraising events had paper programs. There were no projectors, you had to rely on your program for information. As technology has advanced, it has allowed non-profits to be a lot more creative with their fundraising events. Now there are smart walls and instead of giving out programs, people can use their smartphones to access information. Don't be afraid to try new things, many of the things that we do today were once new, crazy ideas.
Being creative and doing something different is scary. It may not feel like it but being nervous is a good thing. It means you care. If you're gearing up to try something new and you feel nervous, you can always give us a call. We're happy to talk things out with you. We can help you hone your creative idea or just give you a pep talk if you need it. Having someone in your corner and having expertise to lean on can help you to embrace creativity.
Consistency is sometimes called persistence or discipline. Whatever you want to call it, consistency is the number one predictor of success. Have you ever looked at a successful business and wondered why it's so successful or at a person who is at the top of their field, but isn't exactly the most talented? Their success comes from consistency. They have turned the things that make a difference into a habit. They show up every single day and perform those tasks.
One of the most common things we hear from fundraisers is that they're not a great salesperson. They think that it's holding them back. That is just not true. Many of the most successful fundraisers we know are not salespeople. We've heard their calls. The reason they're so successful is they get on the phone every day and make the same number of calls. It doesn't matter if they're not feeling it or they've been hearing nothing but "no" all week - they still make those calls.
Don't put things off until you're in the mood. Motivation is fleeting, discipline is what gets you up in the morning. Inspiration can prompt you to take immediate action while you're fired up, but discipline is what you need to make consistent effort.
We Use the 3 C's Too
These 3 Cs for non-profits are the foundation for success in this industry. The non-profit space is constantly evolving and changing, but these things will help you to stay ahead of the curve. When we think about how much fundraising events have changed since we first started, we never would've predicted the things that are done today. The 3 Cs help you to constantly evolve. Your donors are constantly evolving and changing, so you need to do so too. One day you will look up and suddenly, most of your donors are a different generation than you expected. Your average donor age was 70, but now the average age is 50.
We've been doing this for a long time, but we're not immune to this either. In 2020, we had to overhaul everything because the pandemic forced a lot of change, not just in the non-profit space. We tried a lot of things, and many of those things were immediately scrapped because they didn't work. But we learned something from every new thing we tried, and it helped us to get closer to what does work.
We discuss the 3 Cs in detail in Episode 82 of our webinar for non-profits. Listen to the episode to learn more about what the 3 Cs look like in action.
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At HGA, we're dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations Raise More Money through coaching, auction items, and auction software.