There's not an advocacy fundraising professional on the planet who falls short of believing in their cause. A cause stirring up from your curiosity, conscience and concern to the point that you could stand by no longer. Simply watching from the sidelines.
This is why you've turned your passion into a vocational calling. To convert the world, to change minds, and to attract the attention and the money of donors. To your side. In support of your cause.
In the process, you're putting enormous emotional equity into this career of advocacy fundraising. You're personally hiking up that solitary mountain to stake the claim. Seizing the day, everyday, at all costs. And sacrificing your best talents and testimony. All on the high altar of that one cause.
Then one day, as you reach the pinnacle, you realize something. Neither your enormous emotional equity nor that one clarion cause is enough to convert the world. Change minds. And attract the attention and the money of donors.
The reasons are varied. In this golden age of cause-centric philanthropy, the competition is fierce and fragmented. And it's becoming increasingly difficult for donors to distinguish and delineate your particular cause from the rest.
Consider this. While advocacy fundraising is distinctly cause-driven, it is part of the larger context of social sector fundraising. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are approximately 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the United States alone. Each equally determined to convert the world, change minds, and attract the attention and the money of the donors. To their sides. In support of their causes.
Don't forget to factor in those countless other fundraising ventures. Of the Mom & Pop variety. Causes springing up from the grass roots and tapping into the tender regions of our hearts and the heartland. There are just as many sincere and zealous advocacy fundraisers for those causes in my community as there are in yours. All vying for the same support from the same locals.
All of which makes success in the arena of advocacy fundraising almost impossible to achieve. So, at this stage, you may be tempted to throw in the towel. Resign yourself back to the sidelines. Stifle the stirring of your curiosity, conscience and concern.
Unless, of course, you enter the arena with a new set of assumptions. And embrace a different definition of success.
# 1: Identify the axis of your cause.
Your understanding of the cause may be unique. Your passion unquestionable. Your advocacy unequivocal. But you're actually not the first in history to question the status quo. Insist that the wrong be righted. Stare down the dare. Nor will you be the last.
In fact, your declared and definitive cause is a variation on larger themes of curiosity, conscience and concern. Rotating on an universal axis as old as time. It is that straight line of truth that goes to the core of the matter. With the power to resonate with most people on the globe and, perhaps, even win a few from the polarized extremes in the public forum. So go deeper and inward, and identify the true axis of your cause.
# 2: Align your cause to the axis.
Align your cause in a more intentional way to this axis. This will center, ground and orient your particular cause within the broader scheme. Back off a little from the subjective passion on matters that mean most to you. Lean in more to an objective perspective on matters that mean most to others on the planet.
In the process, you'll probably need to modulate your message. Synchronize your rhetoric to a new tempo. Adjust the attitude and altitude of your appeal. Get ready to hit the reset button and start advocacy fundraising from a more global perspective. If you want to convert the world, remember and repeat this mantra often: "What matters most to the world is what matters most to the world."
# 3: Associate with others along the axis.
Associate with other advocacy fundraising professionals along the universal axis. Communicate and commiserate often with those who are like-minded. Do the same with those who may not share your specific approach to the shared cause. Don't gloss over the creative tension that lies beneath the competition for funding. As you compare and contrast, look to clarify and refine your understanding of the cause.
Practically speaking, find out which peers are successfully navigating and negotiating through the muddled mess of advocacy fundraising. Then adopt and adapt their best techniques and tips. If feasible, consider collaborative opportunities with these colleagues. Explore plausible partnerships. You and they may benefit from a synergy along the axis, spinning off solutions in less time. For less expenses. For less stress. For less mess.
# 4: Apprentice with a veteran tethered to the axis.
Consider an apprenticeship with a veteran tethered to the axis. These seasoned pros have stuck with it, their advocacy fundraising skills tested and tempered over time. Their mastery of the art of persuasion has been proven through patient, persistent plodding. Their nuanced interpretation of the cause now transcends the segmented and splintered discourse in the social sector.
But you'll have to search them out. They're usually not the ones in the limelight or in the headlines. Instead, they stick close to that straight line of truth that goes to the core of what matters most to the world. Seek permission to shadow them. If they're willing, sign yourself up to be mentored by one or two of these sages.
If you're fortunate, you'll learn what they've known all along. That a noble cause rotating on the axis is timeless. That it can never be rectified or resolved in a single generation. Nor fully funded by donors. Nor is its efficacy contingent on the best talents and testimony of a sole advocacy fundraising professional.
#5: Work your angle from the axis.
Finally, with your enthusiasm and expectations re-calibrated to the universal axis, advocacy fundraising becomes a more measured means of action. Addressing the ultimate causes peaking the curiosity, conscience and concern of humanity. The metrics of your success will not be simply monetary, but mostly how you have moved the motivations of others in that better and best direction. How you have worked your assigned angle from the axis with agility and acuity. With insight and integrity. With humility and honor.
And you'll have done your part in accelerating the greater good. Converting the world. Changing minds. Attracting the attention and, yes, the money of donors. To the right side. In support of that cause. On the axis.
Follow @JoeMazzu3 on Twitter and Instagram. Visit intentionalconsulting.com to learn more about his business serving nonprofits.