This happens to me from time to time:
Some kind of awards for fundraising are announced. And I didn’t win any. I feel jealous.
I start thinking, I’ve done some really great work in the last year. I should win an award! I’ve won a few awards, but not many. Because most awards require a cumbersome application, and usually fees. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)
And I “don’t believe in awards.” Because the only award that matters is the donations sent by donors, and that should always be what we strive for.
I want an award.
This is a problem. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Because the very idea of awards can make us take our eyes off the prize.
Awards focus on the unusual and the “creative” — fundraising that stands out and grabs your attention. This is true even for awards that claim to be about results and not the shiny-object factor. I’ve been a judge for these things, and I can tell you that after a few hours of sifting through similar-looking, high-performing direct mail packs, the different ones get your attention.
The greatest fundraising pack in history will almost surely not win an award. It’ll more likely get sniffy negative comments from people on Twitter who know more about what they like than what works in fundraising. The only people celebrating will be those on the inside who know how much revenue is pouring in from donors who were motivated to make a difference by giving in response to the non-award-winning pack.
The fundraisers who are changing the world are the ones who don’t get bored with what works. And that’s not usually what wins awards.
Good fundraising takes a lot of creativity and originality. But those things are just tools. Another tool is stealing smart (much as Shakespeare did). And maybe the best tool of all is doing the same thing with only minor variations for years and years — because it works — and not getting distracted by the need for variety.
Winning an award is a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to take that away from anyone.
But let’s remember what we’re here for in the first place — connecting with donors, where they are and who they are, and moving them to action that’s meaningful to them. Let’s pursue that with passion and focus.
Even though I’d really like to win one right about now.
Want to learn the ins and outs of effective fundraising? Check out The Fundraisingology Lab.