I find that fundraisers spend a lot of unnecessary time chasing the next great thing and worrying about how they’ll come up with new ways to raise dollars for their cause. A productive fundraiser does not do this. For the productive fundraiser, idea generation is an ongoing and innate process. They are constantly collecting ideas and therefore have a fundraising tactic treasure trove constantly at their disposal. It’s not a switch that you turn on at conferences or as your campaign year wraps up — it’s an ongoing process.
There’s a great quote by business guru Seth Godin that shows the value of this approach: “You probably don’t need yet another new idea. Better to figure out what to do with the ones you’ve got.” [sidebar: I had the pleasure of seeing Seth live at AFP’s 2015 International Conference in Baltimore — he’s the best public speaker I’ve ever seen. Don’t miss the opportunity if you get the chance to see him live.]
So, once you take on this mindset, you’ll never have to go searching for great ideas again. You’ll already have them stored away somewhere for future use. Personally, I have a notebook in my online note taking application of choice (Evernote) simply called “Idea Bank.” It’s a collection of ideas, articles, photos, etc. taken from conferences, books, articles, blog posts, conversations, etc. Anytime I think “I like that … that could work for us,” the idea is captured and sent to the “Idea Bank” for future consideration.
Each year I begin the fundraising planning process by scanning my “Idea Bank” for the best two new ideas to implement in the coming year. Yes … two. Not five, certainly not ten, not one, exactly TWO. The key is to find the best two ideas that are immediately actionable and include them in your plan. One should be started right away and the other a few months later. You should also have a few ideas in reserve in case one of the first two don’t work out. As you implement, you should constantly be testing and evaluating how things are working. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug if something isn’t working, but have another idea in your pocket to take its place.
Every successful fundraising plan that I’ve seen has had two new innovative strategies in it … every year. Not two ideas that didn’t work out … two ideas that successfully raised increased funding for the organization. They might not have been the two ideas that were in the plan at the beginning of the year, but they were the two that got the job done.
When you’re always learning, have a system in place to capture great ideas, and are constantly testing new innovative ideas, your fundraising will automatically become more innovative and successful. You won’t even have to think about putting fundraising inspiration into action — it will be second nature.