Passion does not equal success…but it sure helps!

by Marcy Heim on May 8, 2019

You are passionate about what you do. I SO get that.

It’s why you stay up past midnight the night before an event tying ribbons on table favors. It was a great idea and you must pull it off!

It’s why, as VP of Advancement over a sprawling staff of hundreds, you spend your days inspiring your team—and evenings getting your own work done.

It’s why you ask your family to understand – mommy’s going to be working late…again.

For some small shops, you are literally the gas that fires an engine so small there is not yet a gas tank!

But hear me now…. passion does not equal success. And pouring on the passion over a long period of time can drain the joy right out of you.

“Passion does not equal success. Pouring on the passion over a long period of time can drain the joy right out of you. Passion plus planning, asking, focus and action – that’s success!”  Marcy Heim

It’s a bit like what I hear every plane ride – “Put on your own oxygen mask first, then help others.” You can’t help anyone if you’re dead. Over-the-top passion cannot be sustained and can become a drama of exhaustion and overwhelm.

You need PASSION PLUS!  Let me explain…


Passion Plus Tools for Success

1. Passion PLUS Planning.

“Rolling up your sleeves” and fixing the toilet yourself, digging into the day-to-day with a vengeance may seem very noble. However, it puts you into “Ground Hog Day” mode (see the movie.) Same day, mostly same stuff – no real progress. Take time to think and plan.

2. Passion PLUS Asking.

All the busy work of writing case statements, researching major donors and talking about what someone might give does not replace clarity in your giving options, having conversations about fit with these giving options and ASKING for gifts.

3. Passion PLUS Board Investment.

The Board – All their dedication to your cause…all the words about why it’s so important, all the time attending meetings and talking doesn’t replace every board members’ role and responsibility to provide gifts of time AND MONEY. Board members don’t owe us their service, but they DO need to give. Time is valuable, but money meets giving goals. If your board doesn’t believe it is worth their money, why should anyone else?

4. Passion PLUS Focus.

In fact, passion alone can put us right into the weeds – right in there with the kids, clients, recipients, families, dogs, whatever we serve in our mission instead of leading, managing, and creating, doing. Serve your clients – don’t become them.

5. Passion PLUS Rational Thinking.

Advocacy – thoughtful, persistent, clear conversations with the right people to influence change. Dramatic, emotional, over the top graphic (to the point of being hurtful or scary) in the name of your cause? That’s ‘ends justify the means’ thinking.

6. Passion PLUS Action.

Is your passionate emotional energy so intense that you aren’t getting today’s top priorities done? Is your time filled with a continuous rant instead of implementing real solutions? Are you wound up in DRAMA – positive or negative – or are you taking ACTION!

7. Passion PLUS An Abundant Mindset.

There is more money than ever out there to ask for. We are in such an abundant time. Do we curse the donor who chooses to support a cause other than ours or see the abundance that is out there? Are you still crying, “But I didn’t get the grant.” Or “They don’t like our mission.” Passion will do you no good until you change your thinking.

8. Passion PLUS Finding Shared Values.

Pure passion says, “You are right. PERIOD. They are wrong.” Your compassion for those who think differently gets replaced by scorn. This is manifested in some of the nastiest on-line commentary ever experienced in our history – ALL “sides.” We are more the same than different.

Where are you on the passion-o-meter? Yes, be dedicated. Yes, be clear on how you make a difference. Yes, engage others. Be sure you are dialing down the drama and implementing thoughtful, actionable plans – doing the work that raises money and makes a positive impact.

The best part of this shift back to productivity is peace…and you deserve that!

Invest in JOY®



Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at

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