Personalism versus Professionalism: What doesn’t make us better fundraisers

From 1988 until 1996, I was hospitalized over 60 times with life-threatening, agonizingly painful ulcers.

Through that period, I spent over 137 days in the hospital. I sat in my hospital bed, trying my best to get back on my feet, to meet everything life was throwing at me and be a colleague and friend who still had the energy to be nice, to pay attention to others, and collapse in on my own struggles.

All of that chronic illness culminated in the emergency removal of my large intestine. They constructed a new one from a portion of my small intestine.

Did all of this make me a stronger person? Possibly.

Did it make me someone who is open to the struggles of others? Possibly.

But should I say it makes me a better fundraiser? Probably not.

Why am I telling you this?

We live in an age of emotional projection, where our personal narratives play out in real time through social media. Whatever we experience in our lives is immediately nestled into a public narrative. It’s passed out as a parable in the belief that it can inform our professional practice in fundraising.

I believe these experiences are not as useful as we think they might be for us as professionals.

Does a neurosurgeon talk about her struggles with alcoholism as a tool to make her surgical skills more expert? I don’t think so.

It’s only practice that makes perfect in our profession. It’s learning from failure and success. It’s looking at the numbers. It’s working with people. It’s understanding human nature in a professional sense.

Our personal narratives can help us understand how to identify stories that might be useful to use in fundraising. Our own stories make us better able to see the value of a story that encapsulates the mission and mandate of a non-profit organization.

But does my 137 days of pain in a hospital offer up a professional advantage? No.

It might make me a better person having come through it all with a positive attitude, but not a better fundraiser. Those are two separate things.

Our personal experience makes us more empathetic. But fundraising is still a mechanical, repetitive process. We have to practice over and over to become a better fundraiser.

posted on Apr 11 No comments yet


Conference Recap: Peer to Peer Professional Forum 2014

Recently, Mike and Tara went to the Peer to Peer Professional Forum 2014 annual conference (formerly Run Walk Ride) in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you’re a pledge event fundraiser, this niche conference is the place for you. Everyone attending works in peer to peer fundraising—delegates came from across North America from organizations large and small. With interesting plenary speakers and afternoon summits broken into categories like Endurance, National, and Local/Regional, there was something for everyone.

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posted on Mar 27 No comments yet


President’s Message

If you’re struggling to persuade senior staff (or a board of directors) to make fundraising investments that secure a more predictable, profitable relationship with donors over the long term, you’re not alone.

This new mini-study provides persuasive data to help you make your case.

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posted on Mar 27 No comments yet


Case Study: Holiday Campaign 2012

The Client: Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health works in alignment with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and the child health programs of Stanford University in California. The foundation works to elevate the priority of children’s health, and increase the quality and accessibility of children’s health care through leadership and direct investment.

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posted on Oct 25 No comments yet


A New Mobile Donation Experience: A Case Study

St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation in Toronto, Canada has a new simple and usable way for donors to donate online using their smartphone. With mobile donations on the rise, responsive websites and custom mobile form design are now more important than ever. hjc was fortunate enough to work on a project that involved a forward-thinking charity in this key area of donation growth.

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posted on Oct 25 No comments yet

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