Squirrel! Squirrel!

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

Some development directors have claimed Dug from the 2009 Pixar film Up as their spirit animal. The old man Carl and the boy Russell meet “Dug the Talking Dog” near Paradise Falls. When Russell asks Dug to speak, he responds, “Hi there! My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you!” Dug talks a blue streak, “My Master made me this collar. He is a good and smart Master, and he made me this collar so that I may talk. …” In the middle of his sentence, Dug suddenly stops, looks, and shouts “SQUIRREL!” which becomes the running gag throughout the movie. Even in crazy action scenes, “squirrels” distract Dug and the other talking dogs. Fundraisers have thousands of distractions and can easily develop Dug-like behaviors. The Apostle Paul gives us some solid counsel to stay on track.

Forget the Past
Earlier in this passage, Paul listed his impeccable religious resume (see Phil. 3:4-6), but he gave it all up to pursue Christ. In fundraising, you don’t have the luxury of resting on your past successes, or especially your last big gift. The question your boss always asks is, “What have you done for us today?” You work hard to climb your annual fund mountain, but when the fiscal year ends everyone starts over at basecamp. This sobering fact remains; you are either bringing in gift income or you are overhead. Your past performance is no guarantee of future success.

Focus on the Goal
Like Dug, it’s easy to get distracted by things which don’t contribute to the bottom line. Some executive directors also suffer from “Dug syndrome” by constantly pulling the fundraising team off task to compile a busy work report, attend a non-essential meeting, or serve on a committee unrelated to fundraising. Keep your eyes on the prize. Learn to say no to distractions. At the end of the fiscal year no one will care how many tasks you checked off your to-do list, they will only grade you on how much money you have raised.

Full Court Press
Paul uses three phrases to convey his physical, mental, and spiritual exertion, “strain toward what is ahead,” “press on toward the goal,” and “win the prize.” You should be exhausted at the end of the day or after a taxing event. Fundraising is hard work which takes a marathoner’s mindset and endurance. Former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault once said, “Most people don’t focus enough on execution. If you make a commitment to get something done, you need to follow through with that commitment.” Don’t let the fundraising squirrels distract you.

Think About This: The highest and best use of your time is to spend face-to-face time with your major donors and ask for their support; everything else is secondary.

Response: Father, please forgive me for focusing on things which don’t matter. Help me concentrate on the tasks you give me to accomplish.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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