December 15, 2018
 
Personal Traits Enable Great Fundraisers to Do What They Do

Nonprofit fundraisers are as varied as the people themselves, but all great fundraisers tap into the personal qualities that enable them to be great at their work, as spelled out in Born to Raise, a classic that recently has been re-issued.

Author Jerold Panas, considered one of the gurus of nonprofit fundraising, engagingly explores the factors that make for great fundraisers. Among other things they have great self-motivation, courage, and an entrepreneurial sense Here's what he means.

Self-motivation: "No matter what they attain, no matter how big the victory ,they never stop. They never stop working, They never stop growing. They seek. They inquire. They probe. They push continuously."

Courage: "For a fundraiser, it is simply not good enough to reach what you can. You must reach for what you cannot...Grab the opportunity. Nothing great is ever accomplished by a cautious fundraiser. There must be a healthy disregard for the impossible."

Entrepreneurial: "They have a willingness and an eagerness to break new paths, chart a new course. Their approach is often based not only on vision, but on their innate sense of nascent and challenging opportunity to seek new horizons."

One may be forgiven if the title of this invaluable book leads one to surmise that great fundraisers are born that way. No one is born to be a fundraiser. But what may be inborn, and what can't be taught, is what great fundraisers do, which is work hard, extremely hard. They pour an overabundance of energy into their work. They sweat the details, constantly. And do all this joyfully. In this regard, they resemble high achievers in other fields, be it sports, the arts, science, and so on.

"The really great fundraisers seem to enjoy the stress of coping with difficulties," according to Panas. They appear to be attracted to what one medical researcher refers to as 'the call of controlled risk.' They seek it because they are filled with energy – feeling more vital when they are active and working hard."

Great fundraisers are confident, and exude confidence. It's not just that they are committed to their organization for the long term, but that they are confident about the worth of their organization's mission. They unabashedly share their authentic zeal, which ignites the passions of potential donors.

If all this sounds like potentially great fundraisers are rare creatures, Panas says they're not: "Can anyone who brings to the table the appropriate qualities, and characteristics – can he be successful in fundraising? Yes!" They don't need prior fundraising experience; they only need to share qualities of great fundraisers, some of which are noted here.

Panas is careful to state that there is no special magic which makes great fundraisers great. But, based on interviews he conducted with 50 people he considers to be tops in the field, he observes: "Success takes common sense, the ability to communicate effectively and easily, the talent to motivate people, a good memory, and the hunger to succeed."

Great fundraisers come in all shapes and flavors. Some are dynamic and hard charging, others are mellow. But all have the drive and determination to win. As Panas writes, "The craving to succeed, the drive and determination to win may be the most important of all"

Born to Raise is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
April 2018


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