Sometimes the results of our nonprofit marketing and fundraising strategies fall short of our expectations. Perhaps we had a dismal turnout at an event or low interest in a new program. Or maybe we didn’t have access to the resources needed for a successful fundraising campaign.
I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to become overwhelmed and lose faith when all our hard work isn’t producing the results we hoped for as quickly as we’d like.
Last week, I read David McCullough’s inspiring 2016 biography The Wright Brothers. Learning about the brothers’ passion, patience, and can-do attitude, I instantly felt a kinship with them. The Wright brothers were like the founders and leaders of today’s nonprofits: having an abundance of passion and an unyielding determination to change the world.
While we all want the quick wins (such as our marketing strategies seamlessly generating more money right now!), the Wright brothers teach us that winning requires playing the long game.
Winning — even when your current situation is not ideal
The Wright brothers had the deck stacked against them. Here’s a list of what they didn’t have.
· A college education
· Technical training
· Financial backers
· Well-connected friends
· Governmental grants
· Experience working for someone other than themselves
What’s more is the brothers had very little money of their own. They funded their research and experiments from the modest earnings of their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. But what they had was a unity of purpose and unyielding determination that more than made up for any economic or social class shortcomings.
Winning — even when others have advantages over you
Well-funded, prominent scientists were also experimenting with creating “flying machines” at the same time as the Wright brothers. Take Samuel Pierpont Langley for instance. Langley was an astronomer, physicist, and professor. He received tens of thousands of dollars worth of grants from the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of War to develop a piloted airplane.
Who would have believed that two middle-class bicycle shop owners could achieve what highly-educated and well-financed scientists could not? (Answer: apparently the brothers themselves!)
Winning — even when nobody is paying any attention to your work
You’d think that right after their first piloted flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, the newspapers would have been buzzing with the news. But there was nothing of the sort. Years after the historic first flight, the public still did not take the brothers seriously. People couldn’t wrap their brains around the possibility of controlled human flight, especially by two unknowns. So the brothers were labeled liars and cracks.
But Orville and Wilbur didn’t worry about the doubters and naysayers. They were willing to be misunderstood, misheard, and misconstrued. They just kept moving forward, methodically conducting their experiments and perfecting their craft.
Playing the long game
The Wright brothers’ amazing resolve, ingenuity, and patience carried them through to their American dream. These same qualities are within each of us, waiting to be recognized as our most valuable resources.
In marketing strategies or in life, the next time you are hoping for a quick win, think about Orville and Wilbur. They understood that patience and determination are what make success take flight.
Go long, my friend.
Always go long.
Photo: The first successful flight of the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk,
by the Wright brothers, December 17, 1903. Public domain.