Danger or Adventure

By Brad Layland, CEO

During a recent family ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado, I stumbled upon a fascinating feature of the Mary Jane ski area: The 40 Gate. This gate marks a division between the well-groomed trails frequented by skiers and a vast expanse of untouched wilderness. It’s a vivid boundary between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the unexplored, and it sparked a deeper reflection within me, particularly about fundraising.

The existence of The 40 Gate is a metaphor for the choices we’re often presented with: follow the well-trodden path or venture into new, unexplored territory. For example, one of our clients, Union Rescue Mission, has started doing a fundraiser where participants repel “Over the Edge” of a building as they commit to combat homelessness. These kinds of fresh approaches promise the allure of adventure and potentially quick successes, much like the pristine snowfields that lie beyond the gate beckon the adventurous skier.

Still, there’s an inherent value in the traditional fundraising routes, particularly relational fundraising. This method, rooted in building and nurturing genuine connections with donors, reflects the safety and reliability of the ski area’s groomed trails. It emphasizes understanding supporters’ motivations and passions and engaging them meaningfully and personally. This strategy guarantees an impactful and sustainable journey, much like the security offered by familiar ski trails.

At the same time, innovation is vital to keep our fundraising efforts vibrant and effective. The key is to integrate new strategies thoughtfully, ensuring they’re grounded in the foundational principles that have consistently served us well. This cautious yet open-minded approach allows us to explore new possibilities without straying from our core mission. At The FOCUS Group, we adhere to six fundamental fundraising principles, with the premier principle being that “people give to people.” This underscores the importance of relational engagement at the heart of all our fundraising endeavors.

The Union Rescue Mission’s fundraiser qualifies as both innovative and relational in that they ask people to take the leap, and also get those people to get others to sponsor them to take the leap. So they’re actually creating a relational experience that incorporates both connections and adventure.

Our choices in fundraising, much like a decision to pass through The 40 Gate, shape our journey and its outcomes. Let The 40 Gate serve as a reminder to approach each new venture with wisdom, blending innovation with enduring principles of relational engagement, to guide our mission toward sustained growth and purpose.

And in case you are wondering, I did not, and do not plan to pass through The 40 Gate—but I am thinking of taking the leap for URM next year!

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