Something's been bothering me about best practices. Enough to drag me out of my long winter's hibernation to talk about it. What do you think?
You know “best practices." They’re supposed to be the guideposts of successful fundraising. But what happens when best practices go wrong? This...

Here's just one impact of bad practice. Fundraisers who want to make even the slightest innovation, must climb over a very high hurdle: "What are the others doing?" Nothing wrong with benchmarking and knowing the landscape, but these so-called best practices might not be best. Certainly not if you are driven to model yourself after the mediocre. If you look closely at more of these, you will see the slavish devotion for what it is. A one-way trip to the Matrix. Instead of following the others, imagine alternatives that can take you to a far better place. Here is what I think might be the worst of the worst.
Worst Practice #1
The notion that the best fundraiser is a specialist. Leads to ...
  • The notion that campaigns for annual/major/planned giving is the only way.
  • The notion that the best leaders rise only from specialists.
  • When you meet a donor who gives every way, why would your boss need to send three specialists -- separate gift officers to solicit unrelated separate annual, major and planned gifts?
[Why not send One enlightened generalist who can meet the donor where they are? Spoiler: we don't make them we don't teach them; someone else "owns" that donor. Where is job description for such a gift officer? I can show you.]
After you’ve crashed the fundraising matrix
Instead of a specialist, imagine that you are an Enlightened Generalist.
  • Notice the toxicity of separated, fragmented, compartmented goals and mediocrity.
  • Instead, resist the notion that the institution is always greater than the donors.
  • Even if that’s true, an enlightened generalist sees the trap of it.
Some curatives
Instead of success as a lone wolf, place a higher value on integration, collaboration and build success upon the notion of a unified campaign.
  • Value all the constraints on you. Push through to new insight on what’s possible.
  • Pay attention. The key to flying: the thing you push against is the thing that lifts you up.
What exactly is the difference before and after?
  • Enlightened generalist sees “mastery" differently.
  • Mastery becomes a journey beyond specialization, narrow domain skills and transaction.
  • Instead of getting what you can in the moment, you see possibilities for transformation in every gift, and in every donor that you meet.
  • You experience the three kinds of transformation: that of the donor; that of the institution; and, the most rare, that of yourself, as gift officer.
What’s been learned?
  • You, as an enlightened generalist can be that fully-present gift officer who can hear the aspirations of all donors - and in each particular donor - to reach their the highest level of impact. And aim for that donor's impact to begin now.
  • Leadership will one day rise above the heap of specialists, shouldn't it? Rather, move past narrow domain knowledge to a broader landscape where each opportunity may be treated as a rich challenge to move beyond yourself, as institution, donor and gift officer.
See that the J O Y of giving is attainable, as a Journey Outside Yourself.
Till next time,
Steve
-----------