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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

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Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

I can’t resist quoting my all-time hero, in light of his recent passing. I’ve been an Ali fan since he won Olympic Gold so long ago. I’ve have been even more impressed by his fight against Parkinson’s disease since my husband also has PD. When I went to visit Marty after Ali died, I shared photos and videos, and we both cried at this great loss to the world.


But, what does this have to do with nonprofits?

We can learn from the words we’ll all remember him for: Nonprofits need to combine the science (being as precise as a bee sting) and the art (floating like a butterfly). For years we’ve heard fundraising is both art and science. But have we really practiced that?

The Art of Fundraising

We need to understand our organization’s mission—to feel as passionate about it as Ali felt about everything he did in the ring and out of the ring.

We need to stand up for what we believe in, even if it isn’t always popular. If we want to be successful with donors, we need to understand what they believe in and make sure their values match our organization’s values. We can’t be afraid to declare our values, and we must never compromise them.

If you don’t feel that passion and can’t defend your organization’s values, please find another organization that lights a fire in your belly!

The Science of Fundraising

As much as Ali was known for his famous dancing in the ring and his colorful, passionate personality, he wouldn’t have been “The Champ,” the “King of the World,” if he didn’t have the scientific precision to get the job done.

In fundraising, we need to know the science, too—the tried-and-true smart practices need to be blended with the innovative and new sciences to produce the best results.

We need to know how to use metrics to measure success. You have to be able to measure it to manage it.

We need to stop wasting our time on unproductive methods and on unfounded strategies. Spending your time chasing donors/funders whose values do not match yours, who are not qualified to be donors, or who have too many danger signs to make it worth your while to get a gift from them, is the downfall of many fundraisers.

So, take a lesson from the Greatest Of All Time, and learn to fundraise like a butterfly and manage your fundraising with the precision of a bee.

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