During the pandemic, I have been training for an Ironman triathlon that will hopefully take place in April. Yesterday, I was supposed to ride 70 miles as part of my training. Seven miles in, I got a flat tire.
I’ve been biking now for almost ten months, and this was my first flat tire. I was told that this would happen, so I have been carrying around the tools that I thought I needed. I knew how to change my tire in theory, but those helpful YouTube videos make a lot more sense when you are not actually in the situation. As I begin to try to do what I had seen done, it just didn’t work. The tire would not come off the rim. I was using the tool I thought I needed, but it rapidly became apparent that I needed a different tool. I had to improvise, and I started looking for sticks and random scraps of trash that I saw on the side of the road. With the help of the sticks and the trash, I finally managed to change my tire. I got back on my bike and finished the ride, but I had lost an hour of daylight on the side of the road. In the end, I only managed 42 miles, not the 70 I had planned.
After I finished my bike ride, though, I realized that this had been my favorite bike ride yet. Even though I had accomplished far less than I expected in terms of distance, I had done something new. I’m confident that the next time I go for a ride, I’ll have the right tools to change a tire. And I’m much more prepared for my race. If I get a flat tire during the Ironman, I’ll know what to do.
In the past year, the pandemic has caused us all to do things we never anticipated. For many of us, it has felt like being stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. We’ve gone to our toolbox and realized we don’t have the tools to navigate through such a strange season. We’ve had to find new tools and learn new things. These experiences on the side of the road have changed us. While we hope a pandemic-like situation never occurs again, we will handle these ‘breakdowns’ differently in the future.
Recently we surveyed our clients at The FOCUS Group and asked them how the pandemic has changed their perspectives on fundraising. Nearly all of them shared that the crisis has caused them to be more relational with their donors. Because our clients could not focus on events, they have had to pursue people personally. This is amazing! The most foundational principle of fundraising that I teach and believe is that people give to people. The pandemic has reinforced what we’ve always known: we need to focus on people, not on fundraising itself.
My hope is that, as we navigate this new year, we can take what we’ve learned ‘on the side of the road’ and apply it. That way, even when we can have events again, we will stay focused on people and relationships.