Fundraising and Blueberries:  A Connection Perhaps?

It’s that time of year when fresh blueberries show up – on the shelf at the market, in 5lb boxes at the Superstore, or maybe at your door from a friend. You know the health benefits. Blueberries are the king of antioxidants. But for most of you, blueberries are nostalgic. Whether you picked blueberries, loved blueberry pie or tossed them on your cereal, they’re a memorable little nugget from your past.

This morning I realized something else about blueberries. Colour, size, look and feel – blueberries are pretty much the same at a quick glance. But it depends on the source. It depends on where they actually come from.

Blueberry farms that are mass produced with high yields are needed to supply the market. Demand drives the scale of that mass production. And then there’s the friend who puts on the sun hat, grabs the blueberry pails and heads to the expansive fields where blueberries grow wild. Maybe six hours of picking will fill two pails. Blueberry pickers always know the best fields. Ask any blueberry picker. They have their favourite spots and they go back again and again. And like the KFC secret recipe, they don’t tell about where they go to pick.

As I had fresh blueberries this morning hand-picked by my friend, I stopped with my spoon in mid-air. I thought, “This is just like fundraising”. The berries were sweet, juicy, firm and without additives. There were a few sprigs of grass, a little bit of dirt and probably some bumblebee pee. They were delicious! Then I opened my deep freezer and picked up the cardboard box of 5lbs blueberries. They were perfect – no dirt, all the same size, all the same colour, little flavour. Farmed in large fields with machines. That’s what it takes to keep up with demand and supply the consumers.

The best fundraising is like hand-picked blueberries. It’s natural. It’s done with care. It takes time. It accepts the realities – like bumblebee pee. You value the results and own the outcome. You put yourself right into it. It’s work you care about. Think about that. Make a visit to someone to talk about your work, or send 1500 letters to a mailing list in your database. That’s how fundraising shows up in the world. It’s either hand-picked or mass produced.

So often in fundraising, you look for the most efficient way. How to reach the most with the least effort. You rely on a database. You use a form letter. You pull up last year’s letter, change the date and out it goes. You know how donors feel about too many letters, too many calls, too many emails. That’s how most fundraising is done.

Let the next time you eat blueberries serve as a reminder. You can do work that is special, thoughtful and impactful – or you can go with the masses and put out the same stuff with the same flavor, and get the same results.

Enjoy your blueberries!