I love to run in the woods. A few mornings each week, I head out on a trail with my dog by my side. The rhythm of the run is my meditation and the surroundings calm my mind. This is where I do my best thinking, put things back in perspective and get energized to start my day. The trails are more than a place to run – they are an integral part of my health and wellbeing, and one of the reasons why I love where I live.
Unfortunately, the trails near my home are threatened by growth and development. Because I care deeply about the open space in our community, I am a loyal supporter of groups that protect and maintain this natural resource. One small way I show my support is to run in a race every year that raises money to protect our local resources. The race is in January, so it’s always a little cold and sometimes icy, but nothing warms you up like a good run and the coffee at the finish.So I was excited when an email showed up a few weeks ago announcing this year’s race. Yes, I was anxious to sign up for the race, but more importantly, I was excited to read about what we’ve accomplished this year and what the priorities are for next year. Simply put, I was anxious to reconnect with the mission.
Unfortunately for me, all the organization talked about in the email was numbers – and not the kind of numbers I care about. They focused on how many runners have participated, how many years they’ve done the race, and how much money has been raised. As I closed the email I realized that this organization, like many others, fell into a common trap – they think their job is to raise money. Even worse, they talked to me about the things they care about (aka raising money), not what I care about.
As fundraisers, numbers surround us. Campaign goals, budgets, registrations etc. are just some of the metrics we watch closely everyday. So it’s easy to see how we start to confuse these numbers with our real job.
Yes, one way we contribute to impact is by funding it, but it’s a crucial distinction. The minute we think raising money is the end goal, and not a milestone along the way, we lose sight of what motivates our donors. Before you know it, your case for support becomes a list of how much you’ve raised or how many people have donated. “We’ve raised over $100K” is impressive to your boss, but it doesn't matter to your donors.
Once we view our job as creating impact, we can talk to our donors about what they really care about. Remember, the purpose of your campaign isn’t to raise $10M, it’s to create a new facility where you can double the number of people you serve. The goal of this year’s walk isn’t to achieve 5% growth, it’s to fund research that will lead to a cure. And the reason to celebrate your gala's 10 year anniversary isn’t because it has become a tradition, it’s that you’ve financed a new school.
Your job isn’t to raise money – it’s to create impact.