What Oprah taught me about fundraising

I recently took my mum to see Oprah live in Brisbane. Tickets were expensive ($175 each) but I had faith that Oprah wouldn’t put on a dud show. She is Oprah, after all!

A friend said to me: ‘You should blog about it so you can claim the ticket as a tax deduction!’.

Wow, I thought, that’s an interesting idea.

The problem is this: I was once caught pinching money when I was little and I still remember the sick feeling when every cell in my body turned to shame. Never again!! These days I am a stickler – I pay for every movie I watch, every song I listen to and if I had to pay for the air I breathe, I would do that too! The ATO would have a snooze-fest if they decided to audit me.

So, even though I decide not to claim my Oprah investment, she did have words of wisdom that fundraisers can be inspired by. I hereby share them at no cost to the Australian taxpayer 😉

Lesson 1: Be Generous – You Will Help Others and Feel Great About Yourself!

This is a lesson that you guys don’t need to be educated about – you are already a great juicy bunch of amazing givers (that’s why I love the crap out of what I do!).

Just thought I’d include this one so you could remember once again that you are awesome 🙂

Lesson 2: Do Everything with Intention

I love this one!

Oprah spoke of the episode that won her first Emmy award. It featured the mother of a daughter who was killed by her boyfriend. She described speaking with the mother before filming and being upfront about what they each wanted to achieve from the show. The mother wanted her daughter to be remembered as a person and not just a murder victim. Oprah wanted to showcase the circumstances surrounding the girl’s death so that other parents could be aware of the dangers. They both agreed up front how they would use the other to achieve their intentions and it became a very powerful show.

Since that day, Oprah doesn’t do anything without knowing what she wants to achieve from it.

In fundraising, I have spoken often about understanding and defining our ‘purpose’, and then working out the part that each fundraising activity plays in achieving that purpose.

Each activity should have a specific intention: We are running this readathon for the next 3 weeks to raise $15,000 towards the new outdoor exercise equipment that will cost $35,000.

To read more about defining your purpose, read the first 3 chapters of my book, The Practical Fundraising Handbook, (free!) here.

Lesson 3: I Have Never Made a Mistake that I Have Not Benefited From.

In fundraising committees, I so often see stagnation and delay because people are frightened of trying something new and making mistakes. The temptation to do the ‘same old’ is strong, because nobody is willing to go out on a limb and be the one that raises less!

I have argued in the past that ‘mistakes’ in fundraising can be a gift – if looked at in the right way. They help us learn and grow into the future. They allow us to ‘practice’ the best version of our fundraising.

When we have the mindset of getting events right for the future, it liberates us in the here and now to perhaps trial new ideas and actively learn from the experience. Mistakes become gold, because they mean we now have clarity over what not to do. This is where record-keeping plays a vital role! See my earlier article on handover notes.

Let’s not be frightened of being the one to mess up. Let us instead embrace a little bit of risk (as a group – don’t let anyone hang out to dry!!!) and be committed to an ongoing journey of trial, error and improvement.

Thanks Oprah!


aka The Fundraising Whisperer