Any executive director who wants to stimulate philanthropy must have intense energy for philanthropy and exuberance for fundraising. There are two kinds of energy that deserve attention:
Negative energy that deters and contaminates. When fundraising is measured only by how much money is raised (the campaign thermometer) rather than the purpose it serves (what does the money do?), that's bad energy.
When executive directors view fundraising as a degrading exercise of revenue generation, they naturally resist it. A negative attitude stems from a belief that fundraising is taking or getting money. When asking for money is the equivalent of begging, who would want to participate?
When fundraising has an underpinning of bad energy, resistance builds. If the executive director doesn't like it, no one else will either. If fundraising is not respected as an honorable way of inviting participation, it will be pure drudgery and unsuccessful.
Positive energy that inspires and stimulates. The confidence that your donors will have in your institution will come as a result of their respect for your energy for fundraising. Why would others invest in ideas or issues with EDs who are not leading the charge.
The art and science of modern-day philanthropic fundraising is a process of asking not for yourself, but for others. When we ask potential donors, we are serving as conduits for those who are in need of the services that our organizations provide, be they students, artists, patients, or clients.
It's not you they are giving to; it is you they are giving through. When you receive a gift, you have a responsibility to steward it; it's as if they lent it to you, to invest, with an expectation of a return.
I am reminded of the "CUBE", a poignant teaching tool that Hank Rosso designed. Leadership is the one element on this cube for which there is little if any substitution. Without leadership (he was referring to executive directors and board of directors), the development director won't be successful at raising money, at least not for long.
His point: If you don't have leadership and positive energy at the top of your organization for fundraising, the fundraiser might as well look for another job.
For fundraising to be successful, it is essential that you, and all members of your leadership team, learn how to embrace fundraising, advocate for it, participate in it, and inspire it as a worthy endeavor.
No one else can be the source of positive energy that drives fundraising -- not the board, not the staff, not the professional fundraisers, not the donors. Only the executive director can provide the leadership impetus for fundraising to succeed.
Join Karla and fellow consultant/author Andrea Kihlstedt in "What's Your Asking Style?" our free live chat on July 24, 12-1pm ET, at GrantSpace. Identifying your "fundraising style" can help you ask for donations more comfortably. Learn how this process can help your org develop an "asking culture", and why this is important to successful fundraising.