July 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I have always admired the saying, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” Oh, so true! It is often the case that nonprofits believe their development director has an uncanny ability to wave a magic wand and raise major gifts without having first developed or cultivated relationships with their donors or prospects. Not so.

We live in an age of instant gratification. We absorb the news in sound bites. We need our instant coffee now. You can buy FastPass tickets to avoid lines at Disney World, or with TSA Pre-Check-in to shorten your wait at airports, or take Express Lanes on the Turnpike to speed up your ride. We can’t arrive fast enough to suit ourselves. How about using the self-checkout aisles at the local supermarket? Sometimes I think we journey through life in three phases: fast, faster and faster than that. Whoosh! Can you feel the air brushing against your face? Some view fundraising the same way.

I once saw an ad for the position of director of development for a nonprofit. A large-font headline over the ad blared, “Rainmaker Wanted.” Well, isn’t that special? Wouldn’t we all like to recruit a rainmaker to shower money on the organization? I harbor serious concerns about such hyped-up hope. Let’s cultivate patience when it comes to fundraising, shall we?

As we head into the robotic age and the era of artificial intelligence (AI) beckons, automatons will never control some aspects of our lives. Patience is just one facet of our existence. Fundraisers will still need to interact with humans and their fellow men and women. I can’t imagine a robot making a personal appeal for a major gift. No, robocalls don’t count.

Iyov (Job), a well-known Bible character, had unfathomable patience. When someone exhibits remarkable endurance through all kinds of trials, annoyances or provocations, we say that the person has “the patience of Job.” Fundraisers, too, often struggle and face a myriad of endurance challenges, especially when soliciting major gifts.

I spoke recently to a colleague who was about to close on a multi-million-dollar gift to an overseas institution of higher learning. He told me that this donation was “five years in the making.” The contributor, in his 80s, planned this gift as a legacy for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. According to my colleague, this ultimate gift went through many gyratiomy nonprofit. This lay leader had not been solicited for advice or counsel and the nonprofit’s board ignored her stature for too many years. She once told me, “Norman, I am ready to take my business elsewhere.”

Enter with a fresh approach.

My role was to ensure that leadership regularly reminded her to attend meetings; to listen to her opinions on institutional issues; and to recognize her for her previous contributions. We won her ns over the years. It wasn’t until a recent health scare that the philanthropist decided the time was right to make the gift. My colleague had Job’s patience.

What was also clear to me was the nonprofit’s fortitude. As with any roller coaster ride, it had its ups and downs, twists and turns, and the nonprofit factored in the fact that monumental gifts take time to get done. Of course, in the interim major gifts were secured from other philanthropic individuals. They weren’t beholden to just one patron. But not every organization is able to accommodate such patience.

Many years ago, I secured a $5 million bequest for one reason alone. I stewarded a board member who had been all but lost back over time but it took a lot of work and effort. The feeling of belonging in our organization shone once again for her and her extended family.

Winning over an overlooked and ignored board member did not happen overnight. It required the services of an ego masseuse named Norman. Patience was indeed a virtue here. But, like everything in life, the relationship took on peculiar whirls and twirls. There were times when our neglected board member, whose uncompromising personality clashed with other volatile board members, was ready to bolt. Bringing her back required diplomacy and tactfulness akin to that of a State Department negotiator.

The moral of this story is simple. To shepherd a supporter through a major gifting process and keep them in the fold often requires patience, mental resilience and physical endurance. There must be a genuine effort to succeed, but it is often intense. Understanding this progression will ostensibly get you better results.

The question I have for you is: are you willing to be patient or do you expect immediate results? Take a moment to consider the following when you are impatient with someone. Before you judge them too hastily, walk a mile in their shoes. After that, really, who cares? They’re a mile away and you’ve got their shoes.


Norman B. Gildin is the author of the popular book on nonprofit fundraising “Learn From My Experiences.” He is the president of Strategic Fundraising Group, whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits to raise critical funds for their organization. His website is www.normangildin.com.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles