All year I look forward to summertime because So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) comes on. I absolutely love this show. All the various styles of dance and the surprises of dancers who become standouts, especially outside of their main style. This year, they are showcasing kids, ages 8-13. It’s amazing.
One my favorite dancers ever is Gene Kelly. One of the many reasons he is so admirable is that he became proficient in several different areas: dancer, actor, singer, choreographer, director and more. I realize this is part of the reason I love SYTYCD. The emphasis on versatility and stretching your talents into new territory draws me in.
In this there are important lessons for fundraisers. Fundraising is inherently multi-disciplinary, drawing on a panoply of skill sets. You can be a super-star at the soft skills: active listening, securing the meeting, chatting up donors, asking. But you also need to be at least proficient at the hard skills: data analysis, research, calendar planning, financial literacy (like endowments). In certain areas of development you also need be somewhat of a graphic designer, web designer, copy writer, event planner, and human resource professional.
On the show SYTYCD, hip hop dancers with no formal training are sometimes thrown into jazz or contemporary routines. They have to do lifts and point their toes and move in a way that is a whole new vocabulary for their bodies. Dancers of many different styles must pull off Bollywood routines and ballerinas must master hip hop.
The dancers that succeed on the show not only work very hard and practice incessantly to master the new style but they approach the new style with a spirit of fun and challenge. And most importantly, when it comes time to perform, they carry off the routine with confidence. And when you are in your own style, you have to SHINE! You maximize your impact when you are playing on your home turf.
Throughout my career, I seem to have alternated between jobs that allowed me to do a “dive deep” into an area where I have a good deal of confidence and jobs where I had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me. In those “stretch” jobs, I learned so much and developed that sense of versatility and confidence. That confidence allowed me to shine when I was in a role with a more narrow focus.
You might be a people person but your boss gives you a grant to write. This is one more chance to expand your scope and skill set. You might be an introvert but you have to plan a huge event. Embrace this. When you are back in your “style” maximize your impact and wow everyone.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.