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Fundraising Is Like a Box of Chocolates

I love the movie Forrest Gump with actor Tom Hanks who won an Academy Award for his role. One of the famous lines from the film is Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. This attitude resonates with fundraisers.

Fundraisers understand that every interaction with a donor or potential donor could lead to a gift, we just don’t know when. There is nothing sweeter than receiving that unexpected notice of a significant gift or learning your grant application was approved. But hand-in-hand with the thrill of good news is the bittersweet taste of not making your goal. How do we plan for the unexpected with our box of fundraising chocolates?

We truly don’t know what we are going to get with our fundraising efforts. The 2020 gala that you planned so carefully was cancelled because of the pandemic. Who was prepared for that?!

Your perfectly organized direct mail campaign only produced nine donations (true story from yours truly). Don’t we wish our fundraising plans came with beautiful labels and fail-proof instructions?

We can continue to follow best practices for our profession. We can continue to identify, cultivate, solicit and steward our donors to the best of our abilities, but there will always be the thunder storm that was not in the forecast, the keynote speaker who get laryngitis, or the donor who won’t honor their pledge.

Those are examples of things we cannot control; I want to offer you some things you can control to keep your chocolates from melting.

  • Develop a professional network with other experienced fundraisers and consultants to serve as a sounding board

  • Stay up-to-date on fundraising best practices and new methods

  • Work with board members, fundraising committees and staff to build strong relationships with potential funders

  • Keep your development plan up-to-date and track results

  • Analyze the success of your fundraising activities

Self-care is my last piece of advice. You don’t have to work 60-80 hours a week. You don’t have to miss your kid’s soccer game. Yes, you can leave a little early to go to the gym or even just take a walk in the sunshine.

Give yourself a break and a bite of chocolate can’t hurt.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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