Happy New Year!

While prepping a small feast to say hello to the new year, I thought about how similar fundraising is to cooking. And if you, like me, really enjoy both, you may savor this post. I’ll include the evening’s recipes at the end!

Planning – For fundraising or cooking, a well-considered plan always provides the best result. But sometimes as a fundraiser – and cook – you need to be nimble and whip something up at the moment. Knowing the basics and your donors (or guests) means you are able work thoughtfully with a plan yet take advantage of opportunities as they arise. (Gail Perry makes some suggestions.)

Travis, Nick, Pat, Luke, Yvonne & Michelle.The audience – How many donors – or diners – are you hoping to reach? A big family reunion at a park or an intimate dinner party at home? A smart fundraiser understands the importance of keeping costs reasonable. Big reach (e.g., direct response) should be lower-cost but no less tantalizing… crowd-pleasing for a variety of palates. A small dinner party (e.g., major donor work) with multiple courses is more labor intensive and may cost more per person but results in a better return in the end – stronger relationships, greater gifts. Both a fundraiser and a chef know how to balance the cost-effectiveness for the differing groups.  (Kivi Leroux Miller on defining your audience.)

The recipe – Fundraising techniques are just like recipes. There are those that are tried and true, one that the pros don’t much have to think about to pull together. Some recipes need to be followed carefully to produce the right outcome. Components of cooking need precise proportions, heat and timing, but there is lots of room for creativity. In the end, you want to delight your donors (and diners) and keep them coming back for more. (Marc Pitman talks about the right recipe.)

The ingredients – In both cases, fresh is best! Be sure you are offering your donors and your diners something to fortify them, for donors that would be outcomes of the work they are supporting. Pablum is boring, too much sweet doesn’t sustain. (Mark Phillips talks about better engagement of donors.)

The creativity – Once you – as a fundraiser or chef – have the basics down, creativity adds so much more to the experience, playing with textures, tastes, or presentation. Creativity adds excitement, but doesn’t always work. Be sure to test those new creations before expanding before adding to the menu. (Visit the Showcase of Fundraising innovation and Inspiration.)

Too many cook spoil the broth – As the fundraiser or the cook, you are the expert. Too many  fingers or opinions can end up dumbing down your message or food. Resist. (Tom Ahern’s take on this matter.)

Too much cognac concentrated in a coq au vin

When disasters happen – Kitchen fire (or flare up with board members)? Missing ingredient (response envelope not included)? Don’t throw up your hands in despair. Throw on your apron and figure how to make the best of a bad outcome. Call a colleague, post a tweet, send an email – many of us on social media are happy to support you as you salvage your creation.

Remember – The greatest chefs didn’t get there overnight… experience, trying and failing, listening, tasting all helped them develop their craft. It is no different for fundraisers. Remember that there is plenty of experience to glean from, whether from books, conferences or social media. As Gail Perry says, “Get fired up!”

Our New Year’s Eve MenuIMG_3230

Pâté and cocktails to start
Truffled Lobster Risotto
Salad of small lettuces, tomatoes &  vinaigrette
Filet mignon with chanterelles
Tarte Tatin aux Poires

Wishing you a delicious New Year!


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