Nunc Coepi, My Friend!Jan 04, 2023
What seems like long ago in a land far away, when our boys were very young, they used to ask before every game, “Mom, who are we versing?” It was so adorable that we never told them that versing wasn’t really a word. It was so innocent that we never told them that they would be versing things all their life—on and off the fields and courts.
Now, if you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m not sporty—I’m competitive but not athletic. Outside of cheering against the Patriots (a Hoosier thing), my sports acumen basically boils down to (a) clicking on anything I see online about Peyton Manning, (b) enjoying classic John Wooden quotes, and (c) reading any article my friend Jack sends me that’s printed in what he calls ‘the section of the newspaper that I don’t read’. Jack is the one who introduced me to Philip ‘Nunc Coepi’ Rivers, and he did not disappoint.
For the sports neophytes like me, Philip Rivers was an NFL quarterback who retired from the Indianapolis Colts in 2020; but he’s so much more than that. In fact, if Rivers and his junior high school sweetheart, Tiffany, both played, they could join their nine--yes NINE--children to form their own football team of 11!
So, it’s really no surprise that the teamwork required both at home and at work would need a bit of guiding inspiration—Rivers got his from a 19th-century priest, Venerable Bruno Lanteri. The words? Nunc Coepi. The meaning? Now, I begin. Some may say it’s a mere motto, others a meaningful maxim. But the profound implication of those two words, beautifully married, leads me to believe that it’s less of a motto or a maxim and more of a mindset. A mindset that, if adopted, would serve us well.
It should be easy to think of Nunc Coepi at the dawn of this new year—"Now, I begin, 2023”! However, Rivers thinks of it as an all caps “LET'S GO!”, like you’d see on the Jumbotron before the next big play. In fact, that’s one reason Nunc Coepi was so helpful to him as a quarterback. He said, “As a quarterback, it’s play-to-play. You’re always starting again, whether it’s good or bad.” Sure, his eye was always focused on scoring the next point or winning in general. But he knew the only way to get closer to the end result he was seeking was to keep the Nunc Coepi mindset—always beginning again. I’ve been thinking about embracing the Nunc Coepi mindset as this new year begins and think you should consider it, too. Here’s why.
Left Brain Marketing Methods: Unless you raised more than enough funds last year, there’s room for improvement. And that doesn’t mean to change all the things or even to do things more like I do. It simply means to begin again, on a path you haven’t walked down yet. Let’s talk about using your left brain to complete against yourself.
Right Brain Marketing Moxie: Unless you fully enjoy all aspects of your job last year, there’s room for improvement. And that doesn’t mean to change all the things or even to do things more like I do. It simply means to begin again, on a path you haven’t walked down yet. Let’s talk about using your right brain to put some fun back into fundraising once more.
Left Brain Marketing Methods: What I love about the left brain is that it’s practical, logical, and measurable. So, you’ve likely already measured how well you did last year compared to the year prior. I like to measure these three things:
- Number of Donors – Is the number of donors growing? Are you keeping your donors from year-to-year? Are you onboarding new donors as they hear about your mission?
- Number of Gifts – This is one of my favorites because is shows you if donors are contributing multiple times per year—that’s a sign of donor loyalty. And donor loyalty is significant because there are statistics that equate donor loyalty with major end-of-life gifts.
- Number of Dollars – Clearly, you keep track of the funds you raise annually since you’ll be putting them to work toward your mission. Yes, you want to see those numbers rise but that’s not always the case. Be kind to yourself in knowing what the market is doing, how few people are itemizing their taxes these days, and that you can’t predict when those planned gifts may arrive. You’re building endowment, so you’re in this charitable business for the long game.
Sure, growing all three areas is a fundraising trifecta. But growing any one category shows you’re working hard. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rethink, modify, and execute a new plan. Nunc Coepi! I meant it when I said that you don’t have to change all the strategies that you have. And I meant it when I said you don’t have to adopt every idea you see me writing about. In the end, you’re only versing yourself. So, when you see that something isn’t working well, begin again. Improve it, measure it, and adapt, as needed. Nunc Coepi!
Right Brain Moxie: What I love about the right brain is that it’s full of potential, creativity, and stories. Of course, every nonprofit integrates varied amounts of these into their daily work. Recently, I wrote about a podcast I listened to featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson. He had this ‘Aha’ moment where he realized that the story he wanted to tell his audience didn’t much matter if it didn’t meet the audience where they were. That’s where the right brain comes in.
Our world is filled with multiple page appeals. Walls of words that we agonize over yet most donors never read. Black and white copy because color copies look too expensive. Letters you don’t want to read they land in your mailbox. Letters you don’t want to write because they're boring. Yes, it’s time to Nunc the Coepi out of that bad habit! Stop sending boring mail! It’s time to inject some of your right brain creativity back into your direct mail appeals and your career!
These are three things I’d consider doing if you think your right brain needs a workout:
- Consider creating a story bank of both the grantmaking stories you’ve collected as well as the donor stories you’ve witnessed as a way to inspire giving and the tools those donors used. Seriously, do this soon for a couple of very good reasons: (a) If you don’t get these stories soon, they may die—as in the people that know the stories best won’t be around forever and (b) When you collect these stories it will ignite you and remind you why you chose to work in this field in the first place. The stories in both categories are amazing and you’ll be so inspired by them that you’ll want to tell others. Nunc Coepi—that’s a great way to begin again.
- Go big—at least once! Consider this your permission slip to officially take one wild leap away from whatever your ordinary is! Maybe your boss or your board don’t think it’s prim and proper to send something funny or colorful or different. Well, there’s only one way to find out, right? Go rogue--but just once! Think of something you’ve always wanted to do but that's outside of your normal marketing comfort zone and just give it a try. Then measure the reaction you get. Did donors talk about it? Did you get emails, phone calls, donations? There’s really only one way to know if changing things up will ever work and that’s to give it a try. Let’s go!
- Go small—but across the board. Make a small change but change it with every piece you create. That could mean sending everything to now look like a greeting card instead of a business letter. Everything else could stay the same, except for this small change. Or start putting a colorful icon or picture on the outside of every envelope mailed—maybe more people will open them. You get the idea. Find one small thing and change it in all that you do for the year. As they say, change is a cinch by the inch. Then next year, Nunc Coepi!
It's a new year, let’s go! Let’s use this as a time to begin again and change up something that’s not working well or to enhance something that is working moderately well but could be remarkable if slightly changed. You might even discover that you love your job again.
I used River’s sporty version of Nunc Coepi because it’s appropriate--“Let’s Go!” Like a quarterback heading into a second or third down, we know what direction we need to go, and we also know we’re not where we need to be just yet. Nunc Coepi! Forward movement is worth celebrating! Decide what changes you’d like to make—fix something that’s not working or enhance something that is. When you and your donors are all doing their part—Nunc Coepi-ing—one down at a time, you make progress.
Clearly, if you think your work is done, you’ve got another think coming. And by that I mean you really do need to think again! Even when you celebrate progress today, tomorrow you’ll be versing again—trying to beat your last best day. Not you versing other nonprofits or even you versing other fundraisers. It’s literally today’s version of you versing yesterday’s version of you--your fiercest competition--your former self.
You need to do better than you did last week, last month, last year, and even the last decade. Please continue reading this blog, supporting each other, and beginning again, each good day and every bad day. Nunc Coepi, my friends, Nunc Coepi!
All My Best,
dawn brown creative, llc.
P.S. If you're the praying kind, I'm sure Damar Hamlin, his family, football team, and fans would really appreciate sending a few extra up.
P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥
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