When I was a kid, I loved one of the dumbest TV shows ever created: Gilligan's Island.
In case you don't know the premise of the show, there wasn't much to it: a boat with a group of suspiciously varied archetypal passengers was wrecked on an uninhabited island. Every program involved their attempts to get off the island. Most episodes, they almost made it -- but something would go wrong.
With such a diversity of people you'd think they'd have what it took to get them off the island.
Those wacky castaways were a lot like us fundraisers. We think some magic ingredient is going to take us where we want to go...
- Having tons of money like Mr. and Mrs. Howell is helpful, but it doesn't get you off the island.
- Being famous like Ginger is a real asset, but it doesn't get you off the island.
- Being smart like the Professor is great, but it doesn't get you off the island.
- Being super nice like Mary Ann is a very good thing, but it doesn't get you off the island.
- Having leadership skills like the Captain comes in handy, but it doesn't get you off the island.
- Even being a lovable goofball, the star of the show, doesn't get you there. You're still stuck on the island.
For the Gilligan's Island folks, all that great stuff just added up to a series of wacky failures. One big fatally flawed scheme after another that kept them on the island.
Here's how you get off the island:
- Show up every day.
- Use all your tools and all your gifts.
- Have lots of small ideas (ten small successes can get you off the island).
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Be willing to pay for help.
Do all that, and you'll find that your great qualities or magic ingredients will produce exciting results from time to time.
The real progress -- it always happens in incremental, un-wacky ways. Not as entertaining as the misadventures on Gilligan's Island, but I think you can live with that.
(This post first appeared on April 14, 2011.)