Years ago a supervisor of mine shared some wise words with me “fundraising (or a campaign in that particular case) is a marathon, not a sprint.” Thanks to Dave Lieb from Penn State for that sage advice.
Campaigns tend to be group endeavors but each fundraiser or volunteer might feel lonely at times. As described in this post by Seth Godin, The solo marathon, there are many marathons and other races with large groups. Participants encourage and support each other even while competing against one another.
Then there is the solo competitor, the person who trains alone each day. If you are a fundraiser you may be working independently in your office or on the road. That’s because for so many small nonprofits the fundraiser is only one focused on seeking support from individuals, companies or foundations.
Even in larger organizations when one is on the road it can be isolating. Sure you may be in L.A., or Manhattan, or Chicago. What many don’t realize is that you might see the airport, go from appointment to appointment, and then board a plane and return home. In some situations, you are driving by corn or wheat fields on the way to a rural section of the state to speak with someone about acid mine drainage.
What keeps fundraisers completing solo marathons going? For me, it was the joy of meeting so many different donors and prospective donors. I visited with a wide array of fascinating people all with stories to tell. Their ages ranged from the 20s to the 90s. I met with CEOs of major companies and walked through mountains fields a prospective donor who showed me streams polluted by acid mine drainage.
If you are a solo fundraising marathoner you may find some inspiration in reading the story of George Etzweiler. George is a 98-year-old runner who annually runs the Mt. Washington Race, 7.3 miles ending at an elevation of 4,605 feet. George didn’t start running until he was 50, so no need to be concerned if you are just starting out after having had another career.
How can you train? Here are a few thoughts:
- Read Inside the Mind of a Curious Chameleon from EAB and posts from organizations like Aspen Leadership Group.
- Seek out chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals or if you work in higher education or an independent school become involved with the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.
- Join in online communities like Penn State’s Certificate Programs in Fundraising, African American Development Officers, or the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.
You can also connect with others on LinkedIn (feel free to contact me here). You may feel as though you are running a race by yourself but you are not alone.
Sophie W. Penney, Ph.D. is the Senior Program Coordinator and Lecturer for Penn State’s all online certificate programs in fundraising (one graduate and one undergraduate) and the President of i5 Fundraising.