Data, data, data. It seems like the world is going mad for data. Data emerges when we gather together facts or statistics, then classify them into meaningful subsets, with a view to better understanding a particular phenomena. It’s a useful business tool, particularly as a fundraiser, because the more you understand your donors, the easier it becomes to target the ones who will help you further your cause.
For a moment, let’s take a more expanded perspective on data, by bringing time into the equation. Time, according to the dictionary definition on my apple is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present and future regarded as a whole”. The keywords being the past, present and future.
Data, as a tool, is only ever going to provide information about the past. When we pause and reflect on that for a moment, we can see that despite all the rich stories we can derive from data, it is only offering 33% of our narrative. So where does the other 66% come from?
What the mind chooses to do with the data is based on how it is presently perceiving it. And at this point, we need to understand how the next 33%, belief, plays it’s role in the creation of strategy. A belief is something which the mind holds to be true. Our beliefs, which are largely subconscious, help create meaning about the world around us, by placing information into ‘true’ and ‘false’ boxes.
The challenge here, in relation to your fundraising strategy, is simple. If the data presents new information that is contradictory to the current beliefs about the right/best/quickest way to raise funds, then the mind will often reject it. Unless we are willing to stop and consciously challenge our beliefs, then often we end up seeing today, as though it were yesterday. And in a rapidly evolving and competitive marketplace, this can be destructive. If you’ve ever had a water-tight, evidence based business case rejected by your CEO/CFO, because they didn’t agree with the fundraising strategy, you’ll understand this dynamic first hand.
Making any kind of make progress, requires us to develop an innovative strategy. And the inner work that underpins all innovative strategic plans is having the courage and openness to challenge our existing beliefs. Only when we do this, can we consciously see and leverage the insights that new data presents to us. To get your innovative thinking hat on, try out these questions:
What did we used to believe was true about (data set)? How does this new data change our existing story about (data set)? How does this affect things for us now? What do we believe we can achieve by using this new data to change our future? What do we believe we still cannot achieve? What new beliefs must we develop to boldly leverage the insights in this (data set)?
And now onto the final 33% of our story which is how we create new futures. All great leaders have a grand and noble vision of a better future. No-one ever changed the world by playing it safe. And no-one ever changed the world without having a clear image about the type of world they wanted to be a part of.
And here’s how the 33%, holistically grows into 100%. As a fundraising leader, it’s not enough to gather data about your donors. It’s also not enough to simply think about the data insights. Equally it wouldn’t be enough to have an exciting vision, without data about your past and awareness of the present market conditions. You need all three. Data, to inform you about the past. Vision to channel your passion towards a future you want to create. And belief in the insights, yourself and your team to turn your ideas into a strategic roadmap. With these elements you can build bridges from the past, through the present and into the future.
To help you construct a powerful fundraising vision of the future, connect with Nick at Linked In and then download the PDF exercise entitled Fundraising Vision Builder, which is in the summary of his linked in profile. By attending the upcoming benchmarking day, you’ll gain data about the past. And the middle bit? Well, that one is up to you.
Nick Freedman is a not for profit leadership teacher, who has helped 1000s of people lead their teams more consciously. For more information about his upcoming NFP leadership program visit www.notforprofitleadership.com.au