The Goldie Company

Parley: August 2014 - This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Jim Watson

Step 12: Being Vigilant

Jim Watson, an esteemed professional fundraiser and dedicated volunteer, epitomizes what it means to be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’.  

Jim has an outstanding repertoire of experience with non-profits, including being a member of the The Association of Kinsmen Clubs of Canada and Rotary International, Past Chair of the Rick Hansen Foundation and professional fundraising consultant for several firms. Jim works tirelessly in making our communities a better place.

His experience does not end with non-profits, volunteerism and fundraising. He has over 25 years in the broadcast communications industry, including his own production company, On-Track Management.  His passion for broadcast communications coupled with his dedication and love for volunteering and fundraising provides him with a unique and unmatched skill set.

Jim shows us what it means to be vigilant and how organizations can use vigilance when garnering unexpected publicity while dealing with the media.

In a sentence, what does being a “vigilant fundraiser” mean to you?

Paying attention to the details.  

What qualities does one need to possess to be vigilant?

Dedication, loyalty, taking the time to pay attention, follow-through, consistency and sustainability are all qualities that I think you need to be vigilant.

Understanding that being vigilant also means tackling unexpected publicity.  How does one prepare for it?  

First of all, don’t lie.  Address the situation quickly, and don‘t be a Rob Ford.  When there is a disaster, you need to apologize and move onto business. When you try to bury it, the news media are pit bulls and will eat you alive.  So apologize and remind people the good you are doing instead of the bad.

What should be the first thing you do once an organization gets unexpected, positive publicity? How do you ride the wave of unexpected positive publicity?

My method is to recruit people from the media to work with me on campaigns, which I call the media advisory committee. When they do get together, they take ownership and will protect your cause, because they could be “the media” (i.e.: the pit bulls) instead of people on your team.

Assuming that you’ve followed the past eleven steps, how do you determine if your plan was successful?

“Show me the money”.  The Jerry McGuire principle.  There is no easy measurement of success.  Measurement of success can be anything from having money in the bank that didn’t cost you a fortune to get, to demonstrating the objectives of your organization.  However, true measure of success is how you affect others.  It can be as simple as cutting a ribbon for a new play centre for children with disabilities.  From a fundraising perspective, success can be the ability to open people’s minds and get into their hearts because then the money will come.

In the book, ‘The Vigilant Fundraiser’, what is the key takeaway from your chapter, “Being Vigilant”?

It’s all about solicitation, cultivation and stewardship.  The biggest mistake one can do is getting the money and then forgetting. If you can contain a stable dedicated group of supporters who work with you then that’s the biggest takeaway of all.

How has 25 years in the broadcast communications industry helped you become vigilant or prepare for the unexpected?

Every day in the media is unexpected, and that can be a challenge.  It seems that they need to make things happen and so they dig and dig and dig and try to turn up something that can sometimes turn into a bit of a nightmare for other people.  That’s one of the reasons that I got out of the business.  I learned that you can burn a lot of bridges in the media business, so I try not to burn bridges because you may have to cross that river again.  Always make sure you treat donors and volunteers well, with respect, and always remember to thank them.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company.  She interviewed Jim Watson for his thoughts on being vigilant in fundraising.