The Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers are having a renaissance in popular culture. As a long-time fan of the classical philosophers, I’m all for it! Their insights into the human condition are practical, relatable and timeless. Their wisdom is also very helpful for us modern fundraisers!
The Stoic philosophers had a lot to say about desire. In their opinion, it was easier to reduce your desires than to pursue a never-ending shopping list of ‘wants and needs’. Rather than gratifying every desire that comes your way, it is better to minimise the desires themselves. Instead of wanting what you do not have, it is better to value what is already yours.
Although not a Stoic himself, Epicurus summed this up perfectly: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
At first glance, the logic of fundraising would seem to fly in the face of this philosophy. Isn’t fundraising about getting more and more money for your organisation? Isn’t fundraising an art of perpetual pursuit?
Well yes, and no …
Here are three ways in which fundraisers might benefit from the Stoic philosophy of desire:
1. Donor care: For a long-time donor acquisition was the name of the game. Fundraisers invested their time and energy into acquiring as many new donors as possible. What happened to these donors after they came aboard wasn’t a big deal – you could always acquire more! But the boom times are over. As donor acquisition is becoming harder, and attrition rates trend upwards, wise fundraisers recognise the importance of valuing their existing pool of donors. As is often heard at fundraising conferences nowadays: ‘retention is the new acquisition’.
2. Fundraiser care: When fundraising programs are struggling, many fundraising managers assume that a ‘new and better’ fundraising team will put everything right. However, good fundraisers are not in endless supply. Before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, wise fundraising managers need to make sure they are valuing the people they already have.
3. Tried and tested: Good fundraisers stay on top of the latest innovations in the market and test new strategies for success. Wise fundraisers also invest in ‘the basics’ and don’t lose sight of their legacy programs by pursuing the ‘next big thing’. Oscillating between fundraising strategies, or rashly dropping under-performing programs, rarely works out for the best. Although innovation is important, the tried and tested approaches still deserve respect.
Fundraising Partners support organisations like yours to make the best of what you have through a comprehensive review of your fundraising program. A fundraising review is a great opportunity to ‘take stock’, identify what’s working (and what isn’t!) and formulate a strategy for success. It will give you the objectivity you need to see things wisely – like a philosopher of old!
If you’d like more wisdom in your fundraising program, get in touch today.