Lauren Laur

Vice President, Design

About Lauren

“Clara, you’re not being very perseverant,” my son Gideon declared. His sister, who is two years younger and therefore clearly in need of his continual guidance, had just announced that her dinner was “too yucky to eat.”

“Wow, where did you learn that word?” I asked him, as my daughter unceremoniously deposited her plate beside the kitchen sink.

“We learned it at school,” he said proudly.

“That’s a big word for the first grade,” I said. I walked to the sink, retrieved the plate, and brought it back to Clara, who was now hiding beneath the dining table. “Do you know what it means?”

“It means you don’t give up, even when you really want to.”

“Hear that, Clara?” I said, “Let’s persevere and eat this dinner.”

“But it’s yucky!”

“It’s lasagna. You like lasagna!”

Gideon crawled under the table to join her and whispered audibly, “Even though it’s yucky, you just have to eat it. That’s pers—uh, mommy? What’s the word again?”


“That’s perseverance!”

If one thing is certain about working with people, it’s that things will get messy sometimes. Amidst the ups and downs of relationships, the impulse to give up can strike at any moment—but giving up usually won’t help us reach our goals.

In major gift fundraising, we know that significant funding can take a long time to secure—on average, about 18 months from qualification to closing. But an average isn’t a guarantee; in reality, things are more complex. Sometimes, a far longer interval passes before the circumstances of the donor and the needs of the institution align in the right match. And during that time, we must deal with pressure from other stakeholders, demanding metrics and performance indicators, and uncertainty that circumstances may change and work against us.

In this environment, perseverance is a critical differentiator. As fundraisers, things don’t always go our way. When our best efforts lead us to a dead end or a disappointment, we may feel like giving up. But for those who are able to stay the course, amazing outcomes are possible.

Here are a few examples of the power of perseverance from our 20+ years of research.

A Puzzling Personality

“I had been working with a prospect that had been considered by many to be a challenging prospect. A lot of people felt that I should stop working with that prospect after several years, but I also felt strongly that the money and the desire to contribute was there. Unfortunately, I really wasn’t finding the right formula. I would call; I would visit; I would write; I would do a variety of things to keep our cause in front of that prospect. And yet, it wasn’t until I identified his profile as a high-dominance person and created a strategy tailored to it that I was able to go in and visit that prospect one more time. And without any effort or struggle, just with a different strategy, I was able to close a $900,000 gift for an endowed children’s cancer fund. Because I learned a new strategy and a new approach acknowledging what his operating style was, we were able to close a gift to my institution—a gift that might not have been—that to this day is making an impact on childhood cancer.”

—Development Professional

Intentional Conversations

“There’s a donor we work with that every conversation I had with him wanted to provide food trucks of leftover food from hotels and restaurants to the homeless in Hong Kong. He also wanted to do education and early childhood development things in China. We’re an institution of higher learning, but he really wanted to give to us. I could not figure out in those early conversations how we were ever going to get there. Now ultimately, we found a great way. We connected him with an academic who did work in all-around public policy, and how public policy can influence things like this. It took those conversations and deepening those conversations to learn more about him and understand his motivations to think through what was right for that donor.”

—Development Professional

Surprising Passions

“One of our wealthiest former students was a petroleum engineer and a real-estate developer. We had conversations about the oil and energy industry, real-estate, finance, historic architecture, too. His wife had an interest in the arts, so we talked about that program. We had spent ten years really getting nowhere with a gift from this individual. One day, I noticed a high school physics book sitting on the corner of his huge desk. He said, ‘Did you know physics was my favorite subject in high school?’ He couldn’t make a living with a physics degree, but if he got a petroleum engineering degree, he knew he could go out and make a living. Today, his total giving is about—so far—at the $50M range. This is after literally two decades of people going to him with opportunities for what appeared to be the natural linkages because of where his degrees were, because of where he made his fortune, but it wasn’t until he revealed what he was really passionate about and we responded with opportunities that were meaningful to him that his gifting exploded.”

—Development Professional

Being the conscientious parent I am, I brought my concerns about picky eating to our pediatrician, who actually had the audacity to tell me, “You have to expose a child to a food 30 times before they may be willing to eat it.”

I didn’t tell her that was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard, but I was definitely thinking it. However, the point of her message ultimately rang true—sometimes, we have to try many, many more times than we think we’ll need to before we find the right fit. Perseverance isn’t about the number of tries; it’s about the mindset. When we believe that there IS a solution, we feel more inclined to stay the course and keep trying. And, wouldn’t you know it, eventually my daughter did work up her courage and learn to try new foods. We persevered together, and that made all the difference.

For more tips on perseverance, we encourage you to take our e-Learning course, Developing Grit, which is based on our research into the most important qualities for success in fundraising. You’ll have many opportunities to try and try again as you serve your organization’s important mission!