Thinking in Bets for Fundraising Success

Measuring success in fundraising can sometimes feel like a card trick. A recent addition to the conversation in the field, however, could do a lot to strengthen our hand in understanding. Boardsource, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and several others have released the conclusion of their deep dive into creating better measures for fundraising results. After reading through it, it struck me as the fundraising field learning to “think in bets” like when we play poker.

A Message from the King

As a way to be active on my blog, I thought I had started a New Year’s tradition of learning a newIt began in 2018 when my New Year’s resolution was to improve my chess game. In 2019, I tried my hand at poker. For 2020 though, I could not decide on a new game, chess has remained an interest, and I’ve never been much for traditions. So, the least I can do is try to build a habit of writing a New Year’s post. And, maybe that will lead to more than one post during the year!
game each year and using that to write a New Year’s post.

Chess is still on my mind, but for a different reason today.
Earlier this month, I unearthed a chess set from storage that my family had gotten while we briefly lived in Austria for my dad’s work. It was nice to see it again after being closed up in a closet for so long.

Ask before Asking

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash
In 2008, author Seth Godin promoted the concept of permission based marketing. Godin’s concept is that, “permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” 
Successful resource development works the same way. Think of it as asking to make the ask. Using permission based marketing in resource development means the ask starts, like Godin’s process does, with the understanding that you do not have a right to communicate with a donor. After that recognition, you naturally become focused on how to engage the donor in a partnership that results in them allowing you to make an ask that they anticipate and is relevant and personal.

Compass Points for Mission Accomplishment

I’ve been thinking about mission statements lately because they set the intention for a nonprofit organization. They are the simplest but most powerful tool you have in communicating your case to supporters. Your mission statement clarifies the reason for the organization’s existence and provides the foundation for all of its activities.

When talking with organizations about developing their mission, I sometimes hear that they are working toward a specific goal and they want to “be working themselves out of a job.” It comes from a feeling that we should be working to solve a problem once and for all. With our mission statement, we feel the urge to want to say “mission accomplished.” We feel guilty about any thought or perception, particularly in this time of being wary of toxic philanthropy, that we might use our mission to justify the continued employment of our staff or enable their livelihood on the backs of those in need.

New Year, New Game

Photo by kendall hoopes from Pexels
Decisions are bets on the future, and they aren’t “right” or “wrong” based on whether they turn out well on any particular iteration. Making better decisions stops being about wrong or right but about calibrating among all the shades of grey.
~ Annie Duke, Thinking in Bets
It is a bit late, but I still wanted to put down a resolution for the new year before January ended at least.
Last New Year I made a resolution to improve my chess game. Like most games, chess has many “meaning of life” connections. For me, learning the life connections of a game is just as much fun as learning the game itself. Chess provided me good guidance with its focus on “good moves” that lead to wins and its reminder that as long as you are learning, you are winning. It was great life learning, and my game improved too.
With a new year here,

"Do or do not" Doesn't Work

Student and teacher. Star Wars Rebels

Yoda gave the worst advice. Even if you have not seen the Star Wars movies, you probably heard about the little green Jedi Master and his advice to Luke Skywalker. You probably heard it in your most recent company pep rally or from the motivational speaker that just ran laps around the conference room while whipping everyone into a frenzy with the "Rocky" theme song.

Cheers to Good Moves in 2018

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. ~ Benjamin Franklin


This is my new travel chess set. Obviously, a travel chess set is meant to travel, but my New Year's resolutions do not include globe trotting. The plan is, however, that this set will be with me wherever I go, figuratively if not literally.