Why be a “fundraising coach”?

From time to time, I get asked why I am a “fundraising coach” instead of a “fundraising consultant.” The snarky reason is, I started Fundraising Coach because I was tired of expensive consultants treating me like an idiot.

I do feel sympathy for those consultants. They were mostly nice people. But they were working in a broken model. Consulting is based on the scarcity of information. So after we signed a contract, it seemed they grew aloof. When information is scarce, you keep your value by not sharing everything you know. Even worse, the consultant who’d sold us the agreement was replaced by the person who’d service the agreement. Unfortunately, in the consulting firm model, this person was typically far less experienced than the person we’d worked with up to that point.

This broken system transcended any particular firm. The consultants I worked with in three different nonprofits didn’t really seem interested in helping me learn. Almost all of them seemed to come with an attitude of “you can’t possibly do this.” I got the feeling that, rather than helping me grow to a point of not needing them, they wanted me to be dependent on them – and on paying their fees – forever.

I don’t mind people knowing more than I do. I love that. I do mind people not teaching me, not helping me get better at my job.

I’m sure this model still works for people who aren’t interested in growing. They just want to outsource a solution to a problem they have. But I saw my investment in consulting as both helping to get the job done and helping me to grow as a professional. I felt particularly annoyed when they seemed interested in growing relationships with my donors that somehow left me, the client, out.

Coaching was completely different

My experience with executive coaches was completely different. Starting with Zig Ziglar coaches in the 1990s, I experienced people whose only intent was to spur me on to growth. Like the best athletic coaches, they didn’t try to jump into the game and play my part. They were able to help me play better while they were on the sidelines – often simply on the phone, not even in my office.

And I loved that the learning was 100% tailored to me and my situation. Each coach had a skill set I desired, but none forced me to fit in their formula or “box.” This was so different from my experience with the consulting model. There, firms pride themselves on the models they create. I even had one firm tell me that they had developed a box and we were not going to work outside of it. As though their cookie-cutter approach would work in any situation.

While I love structure, I’m not willing to be a round peg stuffed in a square hole.

Over the years, I experienced so much growth from being coached that I went to FranklinCovey to be trained as a coach myself. I knew that nonprofits would be far better off if they were coached to do fundraising and leadership on their own than having fundraising and management consultants who operated in a broken system.

So in 2003, I opened The Fundraising Coach and FundraisingCoach.com. I’ve been able to offer coaching on my blog, by email, in my books, over the phone, and in person. I’ve also been able to offer consulting, but coming from a coach mindset and system, not the broken system. Fortunately, in my journey, I have found some consultants and consulting firms that are striving to not work in the broken system but unfortunately that still seems more the exception than the norm.

If you’re ready to learn and grow in your fundraising and leadership, ready to work with someone who’s had success in both and wants to help you experience success too (rather than hoarding it to himself), and ready to build a lasting cultural change that will outlive your time of service, then coaching might be a great fit for you. Let’s set up a call to explore it.

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