I was in need of some motivation the other day (and by motivation I mean ‘a kick up the arse’).
A long walk and a couple of episodes of Rachel Hollis’ RISE podcast did the trick, and so far it’s been a super productive week.
Amongst other topics, Rachel was talking about preparing for your worst-case scenario when planning ahead. She told the story of her time working as a wedding planner and how it was company policy to ALWAYS ORDER A TENT in case of rain.
The logic behind this is clear:
- Have a tent on order, even if you’re unlikely to need it. Then if you need it, it’s there and you don’t have to panic during your last-minute preparations.
- Fail to order a tent along with all the other second rate, bargain basement wedding planners and when a freak weather occurrence rears its ugly head, you’ll be one of ten people fighting over fewer tents than are available, and run the risk of wedding guests not being kept safe and dry and away from the biblical downpour.
I rather related to this, remembering my own wedding back in 2009 which was held in central London in 2009 in early January.
When telling people about our big day in advance of the event, so many people looked on in shock and asked ‘But what about the weather??’
To which I calmly responded that it was an indoors wedding (good job because it snowed and the poor bridesmaids nearly froze to death waiting on the steps of the church for me to arrive).
Reflecting further on this topic, I immediately thought of my values and of the core teachings I share both working one to one with clients and also through our online programme, Trust the Process.
Following many years in fundraising, it is my instinct to:
- exercise caution
- be conservative
- err on the side of pragmatism.
Basically, there’s always a tent on order.
Sometimes I worry that I come across as too risk averse or as an unbeliever in big magic.
I don’t think this makes me negative or pessimistic. Rachel Hollis advocated scenario planning from a place of positivity, rather than doom mongering which I liked and resonated with.
- Sometimes a big gift ‘just materialises’ at exactly the right time in a campaign.
- Occasionally, a charitable trust will wind up and spend out its reserves (and you’ll get a MAHOOSIVE gift you never saw coming).
- A significant legacy might arrive just in time.
- Estimated costs might not rise when tenders for a large capital build are returned (capital appeal fundraisers reading this and laughing HARD right now because this has literally never happened…).
Sometimes though. This stuff doesn’t happen. And whilst I’m not suggesting you plan your fundraising work assuming fire, flood and erm a global pandemic, a little realism goes a long way in helping to mitigate your disappointment should things not pan out the way you’d hoped.
As a consultant, I feel it’s my duty to paint a picture of outcomes which range from astounding to disappointing.
Good fundraising can yield both outstanding and mediocre results, often due to circumstances which the fundraiser cannot control.
- Growing more slowly than anticipated does not equal failure, sustainable is the goal.
- Trial and error over time will help you to spot success / failure patterns.
- Focusing time on building donor relationships will ALWAYS pay off in the long term.
The part of Trust the Process which has garnered the most feedback is the section where I walk students through target setting.
- I teach you how to accurately assess the amount you might get from an individual charitable trust and the likelihood of getting a grant.
- I show you how to use this tool to set a target.
- I provide a pre-populated spreadsheet so you don’t have to start from scratch.
Even if the potential isn’t as high as you’d hoped, it is reassuring to know exactly what you can expect and why.
You can then explain your target to colleagues with confidence and adjust your service provision to reflect the funding which is realistically available.
Are you a realist, optimist, pragmatist or big dreamer?
How much of your day do you spend managing expectations?
Need more support on how to do trust fundraising REALLY well?
Trust the Process, our online trust fundraising training will be available later this year. You can find out more here.