Ever heard of “beginner’s mind”? It’s a practice in Zen Buddhism that refers to cultivating an attitude of openness and eagerness, where the dreaded refrain of “we don’t do it that way here” has yet to take hold. At the beginning of a new job, a new venture, or new relationship, we are truly in a state of “beginner’s mind” — and that is exactly where I find myself as I near completion of my first month at The Collins Group.
Five observations from this beginner’s mind:
- Consultants and fundraisers are alike in one key way – we’re optimists. We have to be because the forces of negativity, especially given the economic climate we find ourselves in, are too daunting otherwise. We need to continue to believe that the world still needs our services – in many respects now more than ever.
- The one question that each nonprofit must answer is this: How are you making the world a better place? It’s not about a new building or a larger endowment. Those are tools to accomplish your mission, and that mission must point to a world, a neighborhood, a community that is better off after the money is raised than it was before.
- Confidence is everything. The Collins Group is the master of the Campaign Feasibility Study – surveying a nonprofit’s philanthropic landscape and determining whether it can raise a pre-determined dollar amount. A CFS is part science and part art, but mostly it is a confidence builder. A well-done CFS helps the entire organization move forward with self-assurance.
- An outsider’s view is critical. In the fund development game, if the donors (i.e. the people with the money) aren’t in sync with a nonprofit’s latest initiative, all the passion in the world won’t get the job done. By working with a wide variety of nonprofits and their donors in the Northwest, my colleagues at The Collins Group have a great sense of which way the winds are blowing and how to best position your campaign for success with the people who matter: the donors.
- A great campaign requires great volunteers. No one else carries the gravitas of a well-spoken, well-intended volunteer. Professional fundraisers are crucial to a nonprofit’s success, and they are paid to like their causes. Volunteers aren’t. That makes all the difference in the world.
I may be new at The Collins Group, but I’ve been a professional fundraiser (and an employer of fund development consultants) for close to 20 years. Seeing my new colleagues in action is a privilege and an education in how to help an organization get from here to there. I look forward to engaging more fully in the work in the weeks and months ahead, hopefully with my “beginner’s mind” fully engaged.
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About the Author
James Plourde CFRE
James is always willing to ask the needed questions, helping his clients clarify their path and giving them the confidence to proceed.