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Have you still got that fire in the belly?

Howard Lake | 21 May 2013 | Blogs

One thing no book or training course can teach fundraisers is passion for the cause. It’s an essential ingredient for success and without it no fundraising operation will prosper for long.

I recently interviewed an academic about an ambitious appeal he plans to launch. He has already had some good successes in attracting funding, but would claim not to be a fundraiser, so I was interested to know how he had done it.

As well as expertise in his field, what really came across strongly was his passion for what he does. It was very catching and I soon found myself enthused about his cause. Later that day I met one of his key donors, the representative of a big foundation that supports his work. I asked her why her foundation was backing the project. Her answer was clear and unequivocal – it was due to the academic’s passion and commitment. His “fire in the belly” had won the organisation over, convincing them that his project was worthy of support. Nor was it a fleeting impression – the foundation remains keen on the work and, I got the impression, would remain a key funder.


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We may not always associate passion with trust and foundation fundraising, but even here it can be a key ingredient. So what to do if you or members of your staff have lost that “fire in the belly”? (because act you must if your work and the fortunes of your organisation are not to suffer).

Seek inspiration. Talk to clients, visit your projects, meet other charities to see how they do things. If you have been in your organisation a long time, ask for a sabbatical and use the time to re-enthuse yourself. If it is your staff who are looking tired and jaded, help them to re-ignite their passion and commitment to the cause. You can’t force people to be passionate about something – they have to find it for themselves.

Two examples spring to mind from my own past. I once visited a sprawling refugee settlement outside Lima, where people were making a future for themselves, with very little help. This experience fired me up like a kick of adrenaline. I wrote articles about it, spoke on the radio and launched an appeal, which raised money to support the refugees.

A second example was a visit to the US and Canada to see how charities there were raising funds for homeless people. I learned a huge amount, got lots of ideas and came back fired up with a new enthusiasm, which inspired my work for long afterwards.

So how is your enthusiasm count today? Perhaps you need some new inspiration to get you passionate about your cause? Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own motivation (though having a great cause and a good manager will help). But if you really are feeling uninspired day after day, don’t ignore it. Either find a way to re-ignite your passion or maybe move on to a new role and make way for someone who has still got that “fire in the belly”.