The most experienced fundraisers know that all the fundraising you do now is a learning opportunity to evolve and grow your fundraising into the future, each event is an opportunity to improve by learning from mistakes.
The next fundraiser you run, whether it be a gala evening, a spell-a-thon or a fete, adopt the mindset that you are actually planning the subsequent or following fundraiser.
This frame of reference will offer a new perspective and allow you to do a couple of important things.
Learning from mistakes
First, you will be more prepared to take some risks because, after all, you are simply ‘testing’ the ideas to see if they work for the ‘actual’ fundraiser. This willingness to try things a little differently will mean you begin to invite more ‘out there’ ideas and you can have a lot more fun with what you are doing. So what does that look like? Maybe it is paying for a professional to run an event or provide entertainment where previously you’ve relied on volunteers. It’s a risk because there is an extra outlay required but if you can use them as a point of difference, a marketing opportunity, perhaps it will pay off. The worst that can happen – you know for next time, you are learning from mistakes.
Secondly (and most importantly), you will become dedicated to learning and handover. You will make certain you take notes of the key lessons learned from this fundraiser – what worked, what didn’t and why. The wrap-up after your fundraiser will be less about how much you made and more about how to make the next one better. Remember though, it isn’t a roasting, all suggestions for improvement should be framed as positively as possible. Start your analysis with what has worked well so that everyone gets a chance to get that ‘warm glow of satisfaction’. Then ask for feedback. It is important that the person running the feedback session keeps the conversation as positive as possible. That can be difficult if there has been a financial loss or disappointing attendance but remember everyone has tried to do their best and is learning from these mistakes. Ensure the notes are made available to all participants and saved where they can be accessed in future.
Your following fundraiser will be more successful because of it.
Learning from mistakes is one of the hardest things to do but when it becomes a routine part of every event it is amazing what can happen! It is this kind of commitment to ongoing learning and improvement that defines the most successful fundraising committees.
Originally published 14 February 2014