3 fundraising lessons I learned from running

This is the goofy grin of a gal who just ran her very first 5K!  

Now, I am not a born runner. Until last year, the only time you’d catch me running is if I was being chased (to use a tired old line!).

But that all changed when the pandemic hit.

Gyms closed, my favourite fitness classes got cancelled, and like many of us, I was stuck at home feeling frustrated.

I started by running just one minute, and walking four. Then I worked up to running two minutes, and walking three…  

It took almost four months of cumulative, incremental steps to work up to running 5K non-stop.  

And you know what it reminded me of? Fundraising!

It’s trusting the process. And knowing that every incremental step you take to build great relationships with your donors is leading to something amazing.

As I pass the one year mark of becoming a runner (it took me that long to start claiming that identity!), here are a few more fundraising lessons I’ve learned from my journey:

Try again tomorrow - even if you didn't meet your goals today

When I first started running, I had good days, and bad days.

Some days I felt great when I finished. But some days I couldn’t even muster the energy to get out the door.  

Now, scheduling runs into my calendar and getting out at least three days a week is a non-negotiable, rain or shine. It’s a habit I’ve developed. 

And on the way to developing that habit? I failed a lot. I fell down (metaphorically and literally!). I didn’t always meet my commitments.

But you know what? I got back up, and I tried again the next day.

It was through that process of trying, and failing, and trying again that I learned the most - about myself, and about the new skill I was developing.  

Fundraising is the same: failure is simply a part of the process!

The problem comes with what we make failure mean - about ourselves, about our team, and about our organization.

When we embrace failure as a natural and inevitable part of the fundraising process, only then can we learn and grow to our full potential.

Just ten minutes...

The big thing that kept me tying up my running shoes and getting out the door (even in sub zero temperatures!) is my favourite procrastination busting trick:

I make a deal with myself – just do this thing for ten minutes, and then you can stop.

After a few minutes, I’ve built up some momentum, and I’ve gotten over what can be one of the hardest hurdles – getting started! 

Often, the things we need to focus on to grow our fundraising are things that push us way outside our comfort zone. And if we wait around until we “feel like it” to work on our top fundraising priorities, we’ll be waiting a loooong time.

The next time you are feeling uninspired, move through it anyway. Just a tiny bit of momentum can move you from uninspired to feeling ready to jump in again.

Forget about the competition

I have a regular route I run along a cool urban trail called the Railpath, and it’s very popular with other runners.  

And without fail, the majority of those runners blast past me effortlessly, as I trundle along at my own pace.

When I first started out, it used to bother me that people were faster than me, that everyone always seemed further ahead. Everyone had cooler gear, they were training for marathons... What do they think of me!?

Realizing this led to one of the best lessons I’ve learned:

It doesn’t matter! There will always be someone faster than you, ahead of you, raising more money than you - and it just doesn’t matter.

We have such a bad case of Comparison-itis in the non-profit sector.

Sure, look to organizations and other fundraisers for support, inspiration, and community - but stop negatively comparing yourself and using others as a yardstick for how you are falling short!

I’m curious, and I’d love to hear from you - did you start doing anything differently during the pandemic? Did you have any perspective shifts going through these times of uncertainty? And as things are reopening, what’s helping you get through this transition?

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