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Nonprofit technology & stand-up comics bombing

After some recent conversations with nonprofits about their technology, I had to share one of the most fundamental lessons about stand-up comedy.

You will bomb. And that's necessary to get better.

In the beginning, at least 50% of your performances go terribly. The audience won't laugh. Your pits sweat. Your mouth goes dry. You'll say things expecting a laugh and the silence will be deafening. You'll screw up words and talk too fast. You'll start thinking they hate you more than anyone on earth. Sometimes they shout it too. "You suck". "Get off stage". " The few front row faces you can see won't look you in the eye for fear you'll bring them into your hell.

The irony is you do stand-up because you want to make people think you're amazing, and yet you now have complete strangers hate everything about you. They hate you. And they pity you.

But here is the awesome part of bombing. It gets you that much closer to being a professional. You'll keep bombing but it will wane. That struggle is the only way to advance.

Because from the experience you learn how to get it right. You figure out how to control things so you don't bomb. You figure out how to ease yourself through the process onstage so that when things don't go well, you can right the ship and get the audience back on your side. You learn what things set off bombing so you can avoid them altogether. And that reliability, as much as anything else, will be why people hire you. Because they know you're good enough not to bomb.

You only get better through the pain of bombing

If there was no bombing, then stand-up would be easy. But if it were easy, everyone could do it. And that's not the case. Only those who are willing to endure the pain of bombing can even participate, let along surge to the front of the class.

I bring this up because letting a fear of difficulty stop your progress is the absolute worst way to do anything in life. And that includes nonprofit technology practices. I see day in and day out nonprofits who let fear of changing technology hurt them instead of being willing to withstand pain for the sake of advancing.

So many nonprofits use too many systems that don't talk to each other and that don't produce clean relevant data. They want to succeed and be great, but they hurt themselves by doing things the easy way instead of withstanding the pain to get better.

You don't want to learn a new software system so you'll stay on the one you do know that might be hurting your advancement. You don't want to go through the pain of a data conversion so you'll stay on the one that might be stunting your growth.

But folks, that pain of conversion is a great thing. Like bombing, it will make you better. That pain helps you clean your data and get your house in order to fundraise smarter. If helps you find new ways to do things that make better sense. It lets you take on new initiatives that are exciting. It helps you save money by assessing whether you need all the tools you have or could perform better and more cost-efficiently on something else. In fact, you should leave your system for a week and go back if you love it that much just because it will inspire the actions above!

Here's the thing. As hard as it is, comics don't mind bombing because they know it makes them better at what they love. Without it, you could never be a comedian.

For most of you, there could be waaaaay better technology for you to be using to fundraise in today's multi-channel world than how you're doing it now. And if you view switching to that better technology in the same way a comedian views the benefits of bombing, then you might see why you have to do it.

Because it's the only way you'll get better at doing what you love.

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Author: Leigh Kessler is VP of Marketing for CharityEngine. In addition to being an expert on branding, he is a former stand-up comedian and TV personality seen on shows like VH1's "Best Week Ever" and CNN's "Showbiz Tonight".

 


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