Grab a Coke and Invigorate Your Fundraising

I grew up in a home where Coke was the beverage of choice. Upset stomach? Have a coke. Bad day at school? Have a Coke. Heartbroken over a boy? Have a Coke. Hey — whatever worked, right?!

I recently came across a blog sharing the top seen lessons learned by the Coca-Cola innovation team and shared by David Butler, Coke’s VP for innovation and entrepreneurship. Given my heritage, I just had to read what he said. And wouldn’t you know it? Coke has a cure for stagnating fundraising, too!

Here are some of the lessons Coke learned — and that we can learn from, as well.

1. ‘Get out of the building’
According to the blog, Butler said, “We can have great meetings but … make the mistake of not talking to the customer.” When was the last time you personally answered a call from a donor? Read an e-mail or a letter one sent complaining about your fundraising (and tried to put yourself in the seat of that donor instead of getting defensive)?

We also need to get out and see the work our fundraising is making possible. Re-energize yourself by seeing for yourself (or at least by looking at videos and photos, and reading stories) what the end result of your fundraising is.

Better yet, take a donor on a tour of your program. See your accomplishments through her eyes. Celebrate together.

2. ‘Start with a problem, not a solution’
Sometimes we see a great fundraising idea. We stumble on a website. An e-mail arrives. We get a mailing or attend an event. All of a sudden, we want to do that same thing, only adapt it for our own program.

I am a huge fan of learning from what others are doing and am in no way suggesting you stop your eager consumption of OOF (other organizations’ fundraising). But this is a great reminder — we have to know what we are fixing before we start creating the program that responds to it. Is it attrition? Low average gift? Too few donors who give more than once? Instead of trying to be like _______ (fill in the blank), how can I learn from _______ as I look for a solution to my current problem?

3. ‘It’s not failure, it’s learning’
Sometimes nonprofits can be brutal places to make mistakes. Money is tight, every dollar wasted is money that doesn’t go to programs, lives are on the line … (You’ve heard it all, I’m sure — guilt is a fundraiser’s constant companion.)

But let’s face it — we all make mistakes from time to time. What matters is that you learn from your mistakes. My process for dealing with my errors (or those of others) has evolved over the years to these three steps:

  1. Figure out what went wrong.
  2. Figure out how you are going to fix it.
  3. Figure out what you can do to make sure it never happens again.

The best programs are often the result of a mistake or two that forced us to step back and look hard at what we were doing. And that’s when we see the flaws. Sometimes we have to take the figurative magnifying glass to our programs to see the mistakes; other times they jump up in our faces and scare the living daylights out of us. But if we can turn them into an opportunity to learn and then use that learning to improve — well, it’s really a win!

Check out Butler’s four other top lessons, and ask yourself, “What can I learn from Coke that will make me a better fundraiser?” Because if there’s one lesson this old dog has learned, it’s that education is a lifelong journey if we want to keep the “fun” in fundraising and be the best fundraisers we can be.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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