Blues Brothers 2I don’t know about you but there are certain movies that I must watch whenever they come on television.  If it is Saturday afternoon and I am flipping the channels because I have finished my chores for the day and need to relax, there are a few movies that will always command my attention.  The part that does not make sense is that I own most of them, and can watch them whenever I want.  Without commercials.  But I digress.

One of these movies that I referred to above is The Blues Brothers.  This is one of my favorites.  The photo below is a poster that is hanging in my home.  I loved The Blues Brothers since back in the 80’s, before I was even a fan of The Blues.  The Blues Brothers is a movie about a pair of men who needed to raise money to save their orphanage, in which they grew up, from being sold to the Board of Education.

Somehow, when watching a movie that I have seen dozens of times I can still learn something that I never noticed before.  This was recently the case when I was watching The Blues Brothers.  I learned that their story can help us raise more money if we apply the lessons.  Allow me to explain.

  1. You have to believe.

Those of us who have seen this movie will remember the classic church scene.  Jake and Elwood were sent to church to “get right” before embarking on their fund raising campaign.  It was there that Jake ‘saw the light.’  He realized what they needed to do in order to accomplish their goal of raising $5,000 in 11 days.  More importantly it was then that he began to really believe that they could accomplish it.  Jake began to believe that they could raise $5,000 in an honest and ethical manner in 11 days.  They would do what many of us have done many times – plan a benefit concert.

At this time of the year, many fund raisers have finished planning for the year and started raising money for their organization.  Many fiscal years started a month ago, July 1.  I have worked with development professionals who have no input to their fundphoto raising goals – they are simply handed a number and told to get it done.  Sound familiar?  One thing that we learn from Jake and Elwood is that we have to believe that it can be done.  If we look at our fund raising goal as an impossibility, the chances of reaching that goal are slim.  We need to believe.  We need to see the light.

          2. You need the right team.

Once Jake saw the light he recognized that putting the band back together was going to be the key to their success.  The Blues Brothers Band had broken up and the members were working various jobs and doing different things.  Since some of them had responsibilities and dependents, it was going to be no easy task to get them to give up their current lifestyles to resume touring.  However, The Band was a critical element to the success of the campaign so Jake and Elwood needed to persuade, influence and motivate their former colleagues to get them on the team.

Success in fund raising is dependent upon having a good supporting cast.  Whether they are employees or volunteers, surrounding yourself with the appropriate people is very important.  You need to have people who are able to get things done – the right people.  Jake and Elwood could have found anyone to play guitar for them – but they needed the right guy.  They needed Matt “Guitar” Murphy.  Follow what I mean?  As you are looking to accomplish your fund raising goals, take the time to figure out who the most logical partners will be.  This is the person who is most likely to get the job done, not necessarily someone with a specific “title.”  Be creative, sometimes the appropriate candidates are not the ones whom everyone is seeking, sometimes the best people are right in front of us but we fail to recognize their strengths and abilities. 

          3. You need to be willing to put it all on the line.

At the end, after a guerilla marketing campaign and a successful benefit concert they were able to raise the money but needed to get it to the Cook County Assessor in time.  They went through great personal peril in getting the money where it needed to go.  They were being chased by the Good Old Boys country band, Illinois State Police, the US Army, the Chicago Police, and the Illinois Nazis.  Elwood even missed a date with a very attractive blonde.  They did all they could to accomplish their mission, fracturing a few laws along the way.  Ultimately they ended up in jail.

Now, I am not suggesting that we break the law in our fund raising.  I want to clarify that right up front.  However, we need to be willing to put ourselves out a bit to accomplish our important work.  We need to believe in it as much as Jake and Elwood did.  I was speaking with a young development officer a while back who looked at me as though I were from Mars when I asked him about his own gift to the campaign that he was marketing.  I am of the mind that if you would not give your own money to the effort then you really should not be asking anyone else to do so.  As development professionals, we should be asking the community to join us in supporting whatever cause we are representing, not to donate in our stead.  Additionally, sometimes this type of work involves evenings.  We often have to work on the weekend.  Many times we earn less money than we could if we were doing similar work in a for-profit corporation.  Raising money in a small organization is not easy – and we need to understand what we might face. 

My experience has been that there are life lessons to be learned all around us, sometimes from unusual suspects.  We just need to be open and ready to learn all that we can so that we can accomplish the best outcomes for our organization in support of our cause, whether or not we believe that we are ‘on a mission from God.’

Have a great week,


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