What the NYC marathon taught me about fundraising

Yesterday I got to see my life partner Tim run the NYC marathon. Wow.

As I watched runners from all walks of life tackle the race, I was humbled by the incredible long-term effort and vision it took each of them to cross the famed Central Park finish line.

Months of training on summer-baked city streets. Hour after hour of asphalt-pounding runs. Injuries received. Injuries healed. All of it in pursuit of the elation and joy you get from doing something big, something that will push you to your limit.

The sustained effort required of marathoners reminded me of our work as fundraisers. We are in the business of creating relationships. It’s long-term work that requires vision, stamina and discipline — to start, build and sustain deep ties with people who care about our work.

  • It might be tempting to short change our training run. Think sloppy customer service, poor quality acknowledgments, no report backs.
  • It might be tempting to sprint at the beginning of the race only to lose steam at the end. Think investing big time in acquisition with little focus on retention.
  • It might be tempting to quit when we hit the wall at mile 18. Think making do with crappy  technology, databases, or stopping at any other institutional road block we hit.

The marathoners I saw on Sunday didn’t quit. Why should we we? If we don’t do the big work, we simply can’t cross the finish line.