The Third Resolution

“So,” you say, “what’s the third resolution?”

You will recall at year-end we suggested there are three mantras, three resolutions that can guide your work in 2022 and beyond.

The first? To be a person at peace, accepting the ups and downs of life and of our work and thereby, to acquire that most desired quality of a fundraiser – quiet confidence.

The second is to work at being simple, embracing the time-tested truths that successful fundraisers know and practice. We wrote, “All the latest trends, all the newest fads. Chase them if you must, but know the chase will never end. And that chase will never make you the professional you yearn to be.”

The third resolution? We saved that for now. It is the most important of all. As excerpted from Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising:

Over the years it has been my good fortune to know stellar fundraising professionals at many of the top development programs in the country. I have come to realize they share two traits in common.

One, they are all unfailingly nice people. While I suppose being nice contributes to their success, I nonetheless marvel at how such busy people always make time to share and encourage while having workloads and schedules that make me shudder.

The second trait? It is never written about in our literature and is rarely, if ever, a topic at conferences.

There are lots of nice people in development shops all across our country but the winners, those who truly raise the bar, they understand and practice one thing.

I call it “The Rule.”

True winners understand their job. They bring a laser-like focus to the task at hand. And they never, ever allow anything to distract them from that task.

It is my considerable good fortune to count Dan Reagan as a friend. Dan served the University of Notre Dame for more than 20 years and managed two campaigns of more than $1 billion each.

I think of him as the Babe Ruth of fundraising. I once asked Dan to tell me why their fundraising was so successful, and he told me something profound.

“Rob, we know that every fundraiser, at shops large and small, deals with ‘speed bumps’ that get in the way of they work they need to do. The work they want to do and the work they were brought there to do.

“We all want to succeed. We all want to serve our institutions in the best way we can. We know that means getting out, developing and sustaining relationships, and inviting the investment.

“But the speed bumps are there, and too often they become roadblocks.

“Sadly, and too often, we put them there ourselves. Finding a good reason not to make that call to the donor, for example. And there can always be a ‘good reason.’

“When we look at successful programs, and I include ours among them, there are no speed bumps or roadblocks. We remove them. We are intentional about removing them. We are relentless about removing them.

“Nothing gets in the way of the development officer doing the work he or she is there to do.

“I know that’s easier at bigger shops with more hands on deck. But it comes down to a decision each of us has to make, every day.

“If we want to win, if we want to make our visits and our asks, we must remove those speed bumps.”

How many distractions do you deal with every day? It can be overwhelming and often discouraging. We lament, “If I didn’t have to deal with all of this, imagine what I could get done!”

Those who know The Rule understand those distractions never go away. These fundraisers have mastered the art of not permitting myriad distractions from diverting them from the work they know will bring real impact.

It is astonishing to see the top achievers in our profession serve their institutions in the highest form by understanding The Rule and using it to their benefit every day.

Like I said, this is never discussed, but it is known. For a long time, I thought it was just my own take on things but as you meet and get to know the highest achievers in our field, they shout The Rule out loud in how they approach their work every day.

Claudia Looney was for years one of America’s foremost fundraisers. Author, speaker, chief development officer, and recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals highest honor.

In a profile in the AFP Magazine, Claudia was asked what, in her opinion, was the secret to fundraising success.

“To me, the answer to achieving our highest calling lies in knowing what NOT to do. Each of us faces so many demands on our time every day that pull us away from real success.

“Having the discipline to focus on those things that really matter, to me that is the most important thing.”

Remove the roadblocks. Learn what not to do.

That is The Rule, and the road to winning.