Like many people the world over, I was thrilled to see that the Curiosity Rover landed successfully on Mars this week. I showed my kids the first pictures and answered their questions about space exploration. (I think my 5-year-old's mind was officially blown by the news that a ROBOT took that picture!) But even as my kids were getting more and more excited about space exploration, I saw the tweets racing by lamenting the money spent on sending a rover to Mars when there are so many problems here on Earth we need to solve.
I'm not going to write a comprehensive defense of space exploration. If you wonder what the value is, check out this interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, or read his newest book. But I will say that many of the things you and I use every day -- everything from our cell phones and computers, to athletic wear and tennis shoes -- were originally developed for NASA.
Imagine what might be achievable if NASA had reliable funding and the freedom to aim for truly audacious goals. What alternative fuels or advances in solar power technology might be made? What cool new fabric might make sweaty summer runs like the one I took this morning even more comfortable?
A lot of fundraising departments I work with are just as starved for funding as NASA. In an effort to be efficient and streamlined -- to put as many of those dollars they raise toward programs as possible -- too many nonprofits are denying themselves a chance to innovate, evolve and, ultimately, do even more to further their missions.
Instead of aiming for the big and complex mission to Mars, they're content to run the same near-Earth orbit mission over and over again.
It's easy to play it safe. After all, nobody wants to be the one who bets big and loses. But your donors can tell the difference between an organization that's hanging on to the status quo and one that's charting a bold and energetic course for the future. Guess which one most of them prefer?
Investing in your fundraising efforts -- whether it's in increased time, money, energy or vision -- can pay huge dividends.
Test boldly in your direct mail, and you can find out what appeals to your donors and target your fundraising more effectively. No more incremental nudges. Let's find out what happens when you take an entirely different creative approach, or aim for a new universe, or aggressively go after lapsed donors.
Take the time to coordinate communications and fundraising department efforts, and you can pool talents and develop strong messaging that helps inform and enlighten people about your efforts. (Bonus: unless you have to bribe them with donuts to sit in a room together, this won't cost you a cent!)
Spend a little more on personalization -- in the mail, on the Web and in your face-to-face efforts -- and you can foster better relationships with your donors...and reap the benefit of increased giving.
And another bonus of investing in your fundraising is that in doing so, you might just find other ways to cut costs that don't stymie innovation.
I'm excited to see the pictures and read about the discoveries that Curiosity sends back to Earth. It's a remarkable achievement.
But I also get really excited when I work with an organization that is committed to exploring all the ways they can improve their fundraising. Be bold. Be daring. Dream big. Show your donors how much passion you have for your mission, and watch as they reward you with their loyal support.