For Impact


A Story About Clay Pots and Making Quality Asks

WOW Email | | Nick Fellers

This is a story about clay pots. It’s also a story about learning and perfection. I’ve shared it a lot and it seems to really resonate with people so here you go:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

(Excerpt from Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking)

If you are new to fundraising my advice is to go make as many pots (read: visits and asks) as possible. I think we spend too much time waiting for the perfect time to visit and the perfect time to ask, or the perfect time to make the perfect ask. Visit and ask a lot. You will learn and you will outperform any benchmark that can be found.

If you’re not new to fundraising my advice is to go make as many pots (read: visits and asks) as possible. Even with a top-shelf portfolio of prospects we have to stay sharp and make the best asks of the best prospects. Find a way to visit and ask a lot — whether that’s through more time with your top prospects, or identifying and engaging new prospects.

Finally, quantity is relative. For some organizations this might be 10 visits (instead of one PERFECT visit). For other organizations this might be 1000. The point to drive home is that we can’t wait for perfection or you’ll end up with the philanthropic equivalent of a pile of dead clay. 
Related content: As it relates to building up new team members and getting visit repetitions, this is another reason why we love the Leadership Circle as an entry-level-major-gifts-concept; it’s a great way to build talent.