The Weekend Briefing

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From what I’ve seen, advancement professionals can often fall victim to an affliction I call “The Next Best Thing,” otherwise known as “Trying to Find Something to Make My Priorities Go Away.”
It can infect us any time of year but for some reason is most prevalent right now. Which is awful, because right now is when we need to FOCUS LIKE CRAZY. Focus on what? If you need a reminder, go to the website and read last week’s Briefing.
What’s the most important job you have to do this week? Okay, two. Okay, three, but that’s it! Those tasks are your world right now. When they’re done, take a moment to give yourself a high-five and then decide what’s next.
The point is, this is the time of year when it’s so easy to get distracted, and the time when it is so important not to be distracted.
What book are you reading right now? I’ve been plowing through “The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton and suffice to say, James Patterson it’s not. The book is like exercise; the harder you work at it the more benefits you reap.
One chapter talks about the explorer Alexander von Humboldt and here’s the passage I wanted to share with you: “Humboldt’s excitement testifies to the importance of having the right question to ask of the world.” I read that and stopped right there. Exactly!
Fundraisers are too often consumed by asking the wrong question. “Can you give us $10,000 before year-end?” Or, “What is the right number of mailings?” Or, “Email, snail mail, crowdfunding, or text?”
When you hear yourself and your colleagues asking, “Why should our donors want to support us?” Or, “Have we done a good job explaining how their gifts will be put to good use?” Or, “Do we truly make our donors feel appreciated for their gifts,” then you’ll know you’re asking the right question.
The October 31 issue of Forbes magazine featured “Thoughts on Listening” on the last page. Some of the best:
“If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.”
Sam Walton
“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”
M. Scott Peck
“The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent.’”
Alfred Brendel
And my favorite:
“You can’t fake listening. It shows.”
Raquel Welch
One of the surest sources of inspiration you can find today is sports. Specifically college sports, where emotion plays such a central role.
Yesterday, the Alabama and Auburn football teams contested the 84th edition of what they call the “Iron Bowl.” It is a very big deal.
Shaun Shivers is a running back for the Auburn team. He is all of 5’7” tall and 179 pounds. In football terms, a peanut. With 8 minutes to go in the game, Shaun was handed the ball by the quarterback, 11 yards from the goal line. Shaun didn’t know it then, but it would be the only time in the game he would touch the ball.
As he was about to score, an Alabama defender appeared. Xavier McKinney towered over Shivers and outweighed him by 40 pounds. Mr. Shivers decided he had a responsibility to his team. He lowered his head and plowed into Mr. McKinney so hard the latter’s helmet flew off.
The touchdown Shivers scored won the game for Auburn. The obstacle in his way? He wasn’t deterred and he didn’t look for a way out. Like every great fundraiser I know.
The concept of “influencers” is not as new as many would have us think. I’ve been blessed with influencers my whole career.
One of them is Clyde Watkins. He’s retiring this week.
Clyde has spent 46 years as a fundraiser and a fundraising consultant. President of the Northwestern Memorial (Hospital) Foundation, Vice President for Development at the Illinois Institute of Technology and 25 years leading two consulting firms.
He founded the Development Leadership Consortium, now in its 25th year, bringing together young development professionals for networking and unmatched access to leaders in the business.
When I think of an “influencer” I think of someone whose words really sink in, whose thoughts you remember for a long time. Someone you want to be like. That is Clyde Watkins. He is kind, uncommonly smart, and a gentleman.
There’ll be a well-earned party for Clyde this week. I’ll be there to thank him.
Have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings helps nonprofit organizations across the United States raise major gifts and build strong, sustainable fundraising programs. You can reach him at

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