It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon

| August 16, 2011

Tomorrow marks the first day of my first year of law school. I’m a mixture of more emotions than I think I can handle. In preparation, I’ve gathered a lot of advice for entering “1Ls” (as first year law students are called). A common piece of advice is the analogy that law school isn’t a sprint, but a marathon.

I think the same can be said of nonprofit fundraising.

All too often, there’s pressure on nonprofit organizations to raise large amounts of money quickly. There’s an unspoken “right here, right now” mindset.

But the nonprofits that are most successful know that endurance always trumps speed.

We in the nonprofit sector spend a lot of time discussing fundraising events. I’ve been in one too many brainstorming sessions. We sit around a conference table and try to come up with either a new, innovative event that is better than any before or a tried-and-true event we can manipulate to raise fast money.

Placed in the “It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon” mindset, I see that our focus in these sessions was skewed. If the only factor in evaluating the success of a fundraiser is money, then by all means sprint. Realize, though, that that money will likely go just as quickly as it came.

In my opinion, the most successful fundraisers are those that continue to raise funds long after they’re over. Instead of focusing on “how can we raise the most money the fastest”, focus on longevity.

What can we realistically do with this fundraiser to engage our donors and keep them active? How can we better engage non-donors (e.g. the community at-large) with our cause? Can we use this event as an opportunity to make our volunteers feel valued? Does this event have the potential to be re-created annually?

This switch in thinking will pay off, in the long run.

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