Dec 4, 2009

We're all in this together

Although my heart belongs to figure skating, most of my paycheck actually belongs to fundraising. I've been a development officer in not-for-profit arts for nearly 30 years, creating robust, sustainable giving programs for several different music organizations.

One of the most basic tenets of fundraising is that you need a diverse program, with something for every type of giver. I have a sign on my wall that states "the right question to the right person in the right words at the right time for the right amount." If you don't get every one of those ducks in a row, you don't get the gift. So-- some people like getting letters. Some people like phone calls. Some people give when they purchase your product (like tickets) and some want to give while they are right there in front of you. Some people like a quid pro quo, and some like parties. You need to have all these options available, or you will miss potential gifts.

A figure skating program is very similar. You need to reach the recreational, the competitors, the social butterflies, the pushy parents, the indifferent parents, all of them. Coaches and parents who disparage parts of the sport or aspects of your program are slicing off their noses with their own blades, because they are losing potential customers to satisfy their egos and hide their own shortcomings.

You think synchro is "bullshit?" (Believe it or not, a common attitude) How about all the moves and dance tests those kids are going to need. Is that bullshit? Is that Nationals-bound ice dance or pairs team "getting in the way" on practice ice? How about all the skaters that team is bringing into the rink, because of parents who want their kids to skate where the program is most successful competitively.

What about that adult skater who thinks she can teach (*cough*me*cough*). She's just scooping up all of "our" students. Except for the part where she passes them on at Freestyle, to the coaches who didn't put her down in public, but just bided their time knowing that she doesn't teach freestyle, but she sure does make kids love skating.

Don't care that the high freestyle classes are empty because "those kids are all buying practice ice anyway." Well, a lot of those kids aren't paying for practice ice, because their moms are monitors, or their coach is sneaking them on when there is no monitor, or it's club ice and you're getting a fixed rate no matter how many kids are skating.

Point is, there is room for everyone. Coaches, don't tell your students not to participate in some aspect of the sport. The more they participate, the better for you. Parents, don't engage in mean spirited gossip; if you see something that bothers you ask the rink or skating school manager to explain it. Managers, don't withhold information that parents, coaches and students need to support you and your program.

Most people learn about skating watching high level competition on TV. And then we just reinforce the idea that there isn't room for you if you aren't destined for that level. A parochial attitude is anathema in fundraising, and will cost you students faster then you can blink.

There's room for everyone here, and everyone benefits when you scootch over and let them in.

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