Institute for Charitable Giving

VeritiesGreat Fundraisers Are Problem-Solvers

Great Fundraisers Are Problem-Solvers

They understand that every grand opportunity is simply masquerading as a problem. It is a mystery waiting to be solved.

Father Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame, told me about how he solves a sticky problem. That’s when it’s something he simply can’t get his arms around.

“Usually, if I don’t come up with a solution it means I don’t truly understand the problem. I explain it to someone and I listen to their response. But mostly, I listen to myself discussing it.

“I make certain that I never state a problem in the same way it was originally brought to me. Studying the reverse always helps.

“I never worry about an approach that transforms one problem into another. It usually means I’m probably taking the first step toward an exciting solution.”

Einstein said: “If you have a problem you simply can’t solve, it usually means you don’t fully understand the problem. That’s where it begins. Spend more time understanding the problem.”

For the great ones, effective and exciting strategy is essential. Untangling a problem to a donor becomes an exciting and enticing dilemma. A puzzle to be solved.

They tell me that if the answer seems to be surprising or even off-the-wall, it’s probably useful. One of my great fundraisers told me that if you seem to hit the bull’s eye each time with one of your solutions, you’re either coming up with the wrong answer once in a while, or the target’s too near.

What’s really difficult, Father Hesburgh told me, is if the final decision is filled with uncertainty and exposure. I am reminded that Michelangelo believed in taking risks. Otherwise, he would have painted the floor of the Sistine Chapel.


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