As I reflect back on it, the biggest “thing” that comes to mind over this past week is the question, “fundraising is it an art or is it science?”
I say, it is both.
A good fundraiser knows technique, strategies and skill. For instance, they know when to send out a direct mail appeal and why, they know what best case practice looks and feels like, and they know the steps to running a properly designed capital campaign. This list could go on and on. Everything in fundraising has rules. It just does. In fact, many things can be tied back to “science” itself, leaning on learning’s found from neuroscience and similar scientific disciplines.
But, I think fundraising is also an art. It is how we implement these strategies and techniques and why and when. It is taking the steps of a capital campaign and making them work for a client. Personalization, customization, and above all innovation. Taking what works and refining it for a particular charity, their needs, and their culture.
Interestingly enough, I ran across an important article. It truly was the “what donors want to see in a fundraiser” and I point to this article because this is more of the art and it comes from an important audience. Some of the things donors mentioned as important to them in a fundraiser: Fundraisers must have a passion for their organization, they must exude a high level of energy, someone who listens, has deep integrity, dislikes the status quo, and loves their work. In fact, the top fundraiser would go the extra mile willingly, time and time again!
So, I guess my point is…any fundraiser can know the science behind the work. They can do what is right, follow the rules, and get by. But, if they lack the art in any respect, they are missing a large part of the equation.
If you are looking for a fundraising professional to hire, don’t settle on someone who just has one or the other. In fact, settle for the person who has the ability to be an artist because the tools can always be learned and toolboxes can always be created.
And, that there is my weekly thought.
Share with me your experiences of the art and science of fundraising at firstname.lastname@example.org.