Turning off autopilot.


Going on autopilot is sometimes considered lazy.

But I don’t see it that way.

Check out this definition of autopilot:

An autopilot is a system used to control the trajectory of an aircraft without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the aircraft, allowing them to focus on broader aspects of operation, such as monitoring the trajectory, weather and systems.

Going on autopilot doesn’t mean you’re not focused on “flying the plane”, so to speak; it simply means you’re getting some assistance where you can so you can manage all the other big picture things.

I “go on autopilot” sometimes at work. I consider it a means of survival – especially at this crazy time of year. I spend less time doing some things in order to manage the myriad other things I have going on. I let some things be “status quo” so I’m not totally overwhelmed by my workload.

But you take a risk when you go on autopilot. You risk not doing the very best work you can… for the donors.

Because as crazy as it sounds, the donors are the first stakeholders to be neglected. When you’ve got performance reviews and a certain amount of money to raise, you run as hard and as fast as you can for your internal stakeholders, and – if there’s time – you spread a little #donorlove.

So here’s my unsolicited advice to you as we tip over into December:

PAUSE. Breathe. Get off autopilot! Even just for a day. Just for a few hours!

I did this last night. I was doing some work on some big picture creative planning for a client and preparing a slide deck to brief our creative team. I had a glass of wine and the slide deck and was feeling really relaxed and inspired. So I tried to get off autopilot as much as possible. I tried to ask questions that it’s hard to find time to ask: How can we do things differently? How can we surprise the donor? I tried to think of what I learned at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. How can I implement what I know to be true? Not just successful revenue-wise, but also delivering the donor what inspires her.

It felt awesome! And I’m not going to just please the creative team when I share the deck with them, or the client when we share the ideas… We’re going to meet the donor where she is and motivate her to give! What could be better?!


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Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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4 thoughts on “Turning off autopilot.

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