If we want to be less productive, achieve fewer meaningful results, and invite frustration, anxiety, and fear into our work as advancement leaders, we can simply allow one of the following perceptions to captivate us:
- The Past – the perception of our advancement program’s past is rarely accurate, but is almost always presented as unquestionable truth. According to others (we might also internalize this thinking), our program was either far better than it is today, or it was far worse. For example, the strategies employed by the last campaign were the most creative ever conceived and the volunteers were the most organized, hardworking folks ever. Or, the advancement program has never had the budget and the expertise it has needed to be successful.
- The Others – the perception that each peer or aspirant institution we compare yourself to has some very specific, built-in advantage over us that makes advancement work far easier for them. For example, their alumni have always been so supportive. For decades, it’s just been their culture to give. Or, they have major donors who just give them the money they need.
- The Future – the perception that what is needed for our program’s success in the future is so vast, so great, so colossal that any efforts today are inadequate exertions. So, why bother?
If we want to depress ourselves and destroy our motivation to do good work, we simply need to focus on things or perceptions we have no capacity to change.
On the other hand, we could approach each day and focus our efforts around a simple question:
“For today, what can I do in my advancement work that is a good practice and helps make our program a little better than it was yesterday?”
In order to get advancement results that last, our past doesn’t matter, what our colleagues at other institutions are doing doesn’t matter, and the idealized, long-range future state of our program doesn’t matter.
What matters is today and how we engage it.
Today, in fact, is truly all there is.
This article was originally posted on Jason’s Blog in January 2024. To read more, visit www.jasonmcneal.com.