As I looked out my window the other day and saw this rainbow, I could not help but think of the magical pot of gold put at the bottom by a leprechaun. The legend says that at the bottom of every rainbow is a pot of gold guarded by a leprechaun. Leprechauns are notoriously fearful of humans and guard their gold fiercely. If one can only make friends with the leprechaun, this magical pot of gold will be ours. This legend has persisted for centuries. But where is the story about the lucky person who found the pot of gold?
The problem with this magical pot of gold is that no one can ever find the end of the rainbow. You can search and search, but the rainbow always peters out before you get to the end. Rainbows may look like they reach right down to the ground as this one does, but the reality is that when you start looking it is always in the distance, never right in front of you.
Institutions can find themselves searching for the magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Board members will say “What about this billionaire who lives in our city? If we could just get them interested, he or she could fund our whole campaign.” Or “What about this foundation? They have millions in assets. I know they don’t typically support institutions like us, but my aunt’s sister-in-law’s cousin’s son is on the board. I think if we could just get to him, we could get half the campaign.”
The truth is, this is just the advancement version of the magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You can spend your time hunting for the end of the rainbow and the elusive pot of gold, or you can do the work needed to engage your own constituents to support your goals.
Successful advancement programs don’t chase the elusive pot of gold. They focus on their own constituents and build relationships which engage and encourage those constituents to get involved and inspired by the mission, vision and plans of the institution. They spend time learning what their prospective donors are passionate about and work to match that passion with institutional goals. In the time spent chasing the end of the rainbow, successful institutions work with prospective donors to fund the objectives of campaigns, to support Annual Funds and to engage those donors in spreading the message about their institution. They build their own magic which results in healthy, well-funded institutions.
So next time you find yourself wishing for that pot of gold, don’t go looking for a rainbow. Remember that your daily work of talking with prospects and donors, trying new annual fund approaches, and working with Phonathon volunteers, are all setting the stage for the continual and dependable pot of gold which helps your institution meet its goals and carry out its mission.