DickersonBakker Blog

A Mindful Balancing Act: Art and Science in Fundraising Leadership

At DickersonBakker, we counsel clients that a well-constructed development program has to excel in two areas: the art and the science of fundraising.   It’s rare to get pushback about that proposition, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to strike that balance. 

As fundraising leaders, we tend to make our way up the corporate ladder using one of two traits. Some of us have well-honed, highly productive relational and creative skills.  We’re good at the art-and our operations reflect that. And some of us have high-level analytical abilities. We are good at the science-and our development operations reflect that, too. The two traits seem like opposite poles, right?

And still, they are both important.  The art brings joyful relationship, creativity, emotionally intelligent leadership, practical knowledge and often, visionary thinking to the table.  The science offers methods and principles, organized knowledge, structured systems, and analytical thinking that can make any vision possible

Here’s the good news: they are not mutually exclusive traits.  We all possess both, and we toggle back and forth between them all day, every day. The key is to be aware of which theme we tend to lean into when it matters.  Here’s why: Research shows that when we are leaning into one, our brains suppress the other. The most effective leaders are mindful of that balance.

And the wisest leaders include others in the balancing act.  Our own Brent Hafele is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. He puts it this way, “The key is to understand your strengths and apply them to the challenges before you. Sometimes that means partnering with a colleague who will help you get farther, faster than going alone.”

So where to start?

  • First, be mindful of your own default-mode.  Know yourself and understand your own predisposition. Be aware of your blind spots.
  • Next, exercise the mode that isn’t as natural for you. Make the conscious decision to consider events, problems, and ideas in the other way.
  • Then, find partners! If the science isn’t natural for you, partner with an analyst. They can help make your visions, reality. If you are an analytical leader, make sure you have relators and creative thinkers around you. They can inspire you with new thoughts and ideas.  And they will very likely make the journey less lonely.

Can we help you? If you would like to learn more about your strengths as a leader, or if you need help balancing your fundraising program, we’re here! Contact us today.

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