It’s kind of an uncomfortable question: Have you ever failed? Has your campaign missed the mark? Did you ever have to scramble for a Plan B – or Plan C? I’ve been there. And while it hurts like heck in the moment, you learn as much, or more, from failures than success. What have I learned?

When raising funds, you would think most failures revolve around not enough donors – or donors with insufficient capacity. Or maybe the feasibility over-estimated the amount available to raise. You’d think it’s about the money. But it’s not.

It all comes down to leadership.

Almost all challenged campaigns lack critical ingredients in staff and volunteer leadership. When the going got tough (and it always gets tough), those “leaders” left, or checked out, or didn’t push through. I’ve often heard my colleague, Bruce, quote a great fundraising leader, Jack Lund who said,

“Leadership is everything. Period.”

When the going gets tough, tough leaders rise to the occasion. Not sometimes. All the time. It is truly amazing to watch.

So, when preparing for your next fundraising push, do your homework. Build your case. Have your prospects lined up. Put together a great plan.

But NEVER compromise on leadership. If you don’t have an “A list” leader, then best to wait to find that person—because she or he is out there. They can be found in every community large and small. Sometimes that leader might be a small town lawyer from central Illinois who knew failure many times. And learned from it each time.

Do you agree? Share your story in the comments below.

P.S. Happy belated birthday, Uncle Abe. If he were here today, I think he’d probably say something like, “Never compromise on leadership. Period.”

Posted by Danny Maier
Danny Maier

Written by Danny Maier

Dan Maier offers fundraising counsel and strategic management for local and national nonprofits, YMCAs, camps, medical and social service organizations. He offers invaluable support to clients and their volunteer leadership as they look to enhance their development campaigns, prepare for crisis communications, strengthen their boards and more.

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