With all the economic problems facing our nation, many fundraisers have become reluctant to move forward with their campaigns and efforts. They couldn’t be more wrong.Many years ago I wrote of Sam Walton’s rules of success and how they applied to fundraising. His tenth rule is to “swim upstream;” that is, when everyone else is moving in one direction, opportunity frequently lies in the opposite direction. Don’t get me wrong. I know this is a tough time. But Sam’s advice echoes louder than the constant harping of the doom and gloomers. This may be the best fundraising opportunity in the history of our country. Most nonprofits won’t take advantage of this time, and many traditional givers see it differently, so this message is for the thoughtful and savvy fundraiser. Let’s look for opportunity while the others are running away from it.Many years ago I consulted with a theatre campaign that had “high-centered” and couldn’t move forward. Recalling Sam’s advice, I asked the group to profile our typical donor and friend. “Well,” they told me, “it is someone who enjoys the social side of the theatre, cares about the arts, wants to meet the actors and performers and likes to be around others.” Then I asked them to find the subscriber and patron who didn’t fit that description. They came up with a man who to this day still doesn’t want to be identified: he came to performances late and left early. He bought two season tickets but only used one of them. He violated every rule of a good prospect for this theatre. So why was he there? We got acquainted and learned that he and his wife had gone to the theatre together for years until she died ten years earlier. He went and kept her seat because it was still their time together. He loved the theatre but was not on anyone’s prospect list because he was not visible. But when he was presented with the theatre’s renovation needs, he gave them a half a million dollar gift. He proved that when everyone was looking in one direction, opportunity lay elsewhere.So I have asked the consultants in our firm to think and listen for opposite directional thinking. Among their many findings are several foundations that have not been negatively affected by the economy but have had a serious reduction in applications. They found people whose investments have softened, but have not been destroyed and don’t understand all the fuss. They found businesses that either have not been affected or have found new opportunity because of the recession. This is the best time in fundraising because only a few people will read this, only a few of those will believe it, and only a few of those will act on it.
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