Institute for Charitable Giving

All of the Great Fundraisers Have Certain Success-Factors in Common

It is the thread woven through their entire fabric.

There is high ambition, a drive to achieve, and immense inner-motivation.

I find there are high aspirations. They keep raising the bar for themselves. They are always on tiptoes reaching high. Still higher. Higher yet.

They are audacious. Faith and action. Their credo is: Decide, Dare, Do.

For the great ones, their life’s philosophy, professionally and personally, is: “I can do it.” They understand if you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.

For them, there’s no such thing as a casual attempt. Try? There is no try. There is only do or not do. And in truth, there is simply no “not do.”

There is brazen belief and fiery faith in the possible. The great fundraisers understand that if you can conceive it, you can achieve it. To them, anything can be done.

They truly believe they can do it. And even more divine— they understand they must. The unaccomplished and the undone, fester like a bad boil.

There is also a very high level of optimism. They are the kind of people who go after a whale with a harpoon and a jar of tartar sauce.

I find among the great ones I work with, there is medium to medium-high intelligence. But in terms of copability and, as they say, street-smarts— they are off the chart. What’s the old saying: “A” students become professors, “B” students become professionals like doctors and attorneys, and “C” students rule the world.

(One of the most fascinating scholarships I’ve run into is when we worked at the University of Tennessee. There was a scholarship for C+ students. It was given by someone who was a C+ student who felt those are the ones who achieve the most in life.)

Another common factor is a willingness to work long and hard. When they asked Thomas Edison what was the secret of his success, he responded he was successful because he only worked half a day. And he didn’t care whether it was the first 12 hours or the second 12 hours.

The great fundraisers respond to hard work . . . by piling on more.

And finally, the great ones are self-confident. That doesn’t mean they have a huge ego. It’s simply that they understand there is a job to be done, they are working for a noble cause, and they are confident they can do the job.

Bruce Heilman, former President of Richmond University, told me he considers this the most important attribute he looks for in a fundraiser. He looks for men and women who have in place the self-confidence they need.


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