Striped Bass

As a fund raiser working with limited resources, I’ve often found it easy to make decisions based on the old saying “fish where the fish are.” In other words, if my organization has 30,000 prospects but only enough resources to solicit 10,000, I will plan to solicit the 10,000 that have previously given to our institution.

Last week, I was lucky enough to literally go fishing, off the coast of New Jersey, with this charter company.  It was a new experience for me, and I was fascinated as the captain and the mate kept checking the sonar. We’d stop whenever we were above a large school of fish, and drop our lines, jigging along the bottom to tempt the striped bass.

It was a clear and cold run out to the fishing grounds, and we had spectacular luck. We caught our limit of bass in about an hour, and spent the rest of the morning zig-zagging along the shore, catching and releasing more bass, shark, and bluefish.

But at some point, about 10 a.m., the fish stopped biting. All of them.  Our guides said it often happens and they didn’t exactly understand why. Even the most seasoned outdoorspeople admit that they can’t do anything when the fish don’t bite. The sonar showed we were sitting on top of what they called a “pig pile” of bass, and yet not one of them responded to our lures.

I think it’s helpful to remember this can happen in fund raising, too. Sometimes we are appealing to the right prospects, but for some reason, they don’t respond. There could be any number of reasons, but they’re all beyond our control. You can do everything right — use the best technology to sort out our seas of data, hone the most alluring message to a sharp point – but none of it matters if the fish just aren’t biting.

The only thing to do is to refresh our dedication to our missions and try, try again. Is that how you cope?

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