Happiness, Habits, and Major Gift Fundraising: #AFPFC Wrap-UP

Note:  This blog post is part of my #AFPFC wrap-up, a series of posts writing about my take-aways from the 2015 International Fundraising Conference of the AFP in Baltimore last week. Happiness, Habits, and Major Gifts Fundraising was the title of a session led by Amy Eisenstein.

One of my personal favorite speakers is Amy Eisenstein, author of  Major Gift Fundraising For Small Shops.  At the AFP Fundraising Conference last week, she had us dancing in the aisles to the “Happy” song (no one else at the conference did that) as she led a session on “Happiness, Habits, and Major Gift Fundraising.”

The workshop was partly about major gift fundraising and how to be better at it; and partly about time management, work-life balance, the power of positive thinking, as well as self-discipline.  Oh yeah.  And then there was the dancing.

To boil her message down to its barest elements:

  1. Positive Thinking has Power:  The old adage “think you can and you can” (or think you can’t and you can’t) applies in fundraising as in all else in life. – So Stay Positive.

  2. Remember Stephen Covey’s caution that the urgent can be the enemy of the important.  Don’t let it be.  Stay focused on the important.  For fundraisers, that’s the major gifts.  Conversely, steer clear of distractions (like email and social media).

  3. Build Better Habits:  Our habits matter.  They keep us on track and help us stay focused so make it a practice of strengthening our good habits (like strengthening our muscles) and eliminating our bad habits.

And here are some specific steps, tools, or strategies she offered to help with these three mandates:

  • Get out from behind your desk! The donors aren’t in our offices.  They’re out “there.”  So get out “there.”  Make calls.  Go visit.  Meet them.  Talk to them.  Somehow the other stuff will get done.
  • Call at least 3 donors every day.
  • Try a weekly meeting with an accountability partner.
  • Make an ask every Monday morning (it doesn’t have to be for money – it can be for a meeting, for volunteer work, for advice,…).  Just ask for something (practice makes perfect).
  • Celebrate success.  Cowbells.  Donor dances.  If your organization doesn’t have a celebratory ritual, start one (or two or three).  Being obnoxious is a job requisite for fundraisers.
  • Reward your new, better habits when you practice them so that you can reinforce them and make them permanent.

In the days since the conference, I’ve woken up singing and dancing to the tune of “Happy,” on my way through the kitchen on the way to the coffee pot.  Thank you, Amy, for the dose of cheer and positive thinking. 


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