A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about fundraising lessons I learned from my cat.
I thought I’d better give equal time to my canine companions and share the fundraising lessons I’ve learned from my dogs.
We have two: a small brown terrier mix named Maggie who is high energy and ball crazy. We also have a blond lab mix named Lucy who is as goofy and loving as they come. They’re sweetie pies with lots of love to give and I couldn’t imagine life without them, even though they can be annoying as all get out from time to time.
In my world, pets are members of the family and we take the good with the bad.
Here’s what I’ve learned from them about raising money.
1. They both like routine. Routines and systems are super helpful for efficiency. They keep you from spending a lot of time reinventing the wheel. You need systems for everything you do more than once so you can move through the task efficiently in the future. My dogs know the routine for getting ready each morning – when breakfast is, when the potty break is, and when to get in the car to go to work. They know what to expect during the day and what it means when I close my laptop (you’ve never seen two dogs dance the ways these girls do when it’s time to go home!). They’ve got the daily drill down-pat, and it throws them off when the routine is disrupted (especially when I go out of town). One of the funniest is how I play fetch with Maggie while I dry my hair. She hears the hairdryer come on and she shows up out of nowhere with a ball in her mouth, ready for me to kick it with my foot. I don’t remember how this started, but it’s a routine now, and there’s no way she’s giving up ball time.
2. They are loyal. They are super committed to us humans they’re attached to. If ANYONE dares to stop their car at the edge of our driveway or walk down the sidewalk outside the office, they both growl and bark. (Of course, we’re trying to get them to cut that out, especially at the office!). They’re territorial about their space and want to protect it. You should feel the same way about your organization and your donors. What can you do to make sure that no other nonprofit is edging you out to become your donors’ favorite? Donors are going to give to multiple nonprofits at the same time and there’s nothing you can do about it. But if you become their favorite, then you’ll get their biggest donations and you’ll never have to worry about them cutting you out of the picture.
3. They LOVE to go for a car ride. To raise big bucks, you MUST get out of your office and get face-to-face with donors. You can do a fair number of things from behind your desk, but at some point you must get out. My dogs LOVE to ride in the car and feel the wind blowing over their face. They know the word “go” and get super excited when they hear it. The ladies at the bank know me and my dogs and always have treats in the drawer along with my deposit receipt.
4. They are playful. My doggies love to play. Maggie is ball crazy, and Lucy just loves to run around. They know that life shouldn’t be all serious and that play time outside is important. Play time is important for you, too. It’s easy to get sucked into a work-all-the-time situation with the best intentions: “I’ll just finish this one thing tonight” or “I’ll review this newsletter after dinner” or “I’ll knock this grant out this weekend.” Next thing you know, it’s every night and every weekend. You CAN’T do that – you’ll burn out. Take time for yourself, practice good self care and make sure you get your play time in. It’s really important – it recharges your batteries so you can be your best when you’re working.
5. They love meeting new people. So this one is kind of contradictory – they bark at everyone who comes near, but when they see I’m fine with the new person, they’re all about making a new friend. Maggie wags her tail so hard I don’t know how she can stay on her feet! In fundraising, you need to constantly bring new people into your donor family just to make up for the ones who are leaving (no matter how hard you try, you’ll lose some donors each year). Being focused on finding new donors is a great habit to get into, and the friendlier you are, the easier it is. If you’re an introvert like me, practice some questions you can ask when you meet new people – it’ll help you feel more comfortable in that situation.
6. They’re curious. My dogs are curious. About everything. They love new toys and new people. They love to sniff EVERYTHING in our yard (which is a lot because we live on a farm – no telling what walks through our yard during the night). Lucy has a great head tilt when she’s zoned in on something. Curiosity is a great trait for fundraisers, too. It’ll help you uncover the reason why a donor cares about your nonprofit’s mission. It’ll help you determine which fundraising activities are worth the ROI and which ones aren’t. And it’ll help you find solutions to problems when others say there isn’t one.
7. They’re good at asking. As a fundraiser, mastering the art of asking is critical. Whether you’re asking for money, asking for a sponsorship, or asking someone to volunteer, you must be able to ask for what your organization needs without flinching. My dogs are Jedi Masters at this. They don’t beat around the bush – they go right for it. When Maggie wants to play ball, she brings it to you and drops it in your lap or at your feet, then proceeds to stare you down until you do what she wants. If you resist, she turns up the pressure with whining and getting in your lap. When Lucy needs to go out, she pokes you with her big nose every minute or so until you get up and take her out. There’s never a question as to what they want which makes it easy to give it to them. Are you being that clear with your donors? Do they know exactly what you want them to do? Hint: if you’re sending a letter that looks like thank you letter, but sort of has an ask in it and also feels like an update, you’re confusing them. Be clear. Ask for ONE thing and get right to the point.
8. They have stinky farts. Yes they do. Sometimes they just about run us out of the house because it smells so bad. But here’s the thing: those gas bubbles tell us they’re not perfect. A perfect dog wouldn’t poot in my face when we’re snuggled up on the couch together. Yet Maggie does. Her imperfectness is part of her charm. Just like Maggie, a good fundraiser isn’t perfect. They don’t get all wrapped up in trying to be perfect either. Perfectionism leads to procrastination, which will shut down your fundraising activities. I’m living proof that you can be less than perfect, make a bunch of mistakes and still raise a crap ton of money. I’ve made just about every mistake in the book and not only survived it, but was very successful anyway.
So, there you go – 8 fundraising lessons I learned from my dogs. I’m sure there are many more and I may share those later.
Got one you could add to it? Type it in the comments below!