(888) 540.0505 | Mission Advancement, 7850 Collin McKinney Parkway, Suite 120, McKinney, Texas
As we have all watched the horror of Hurricane Harvey decimating Southeast Texas, we empathize with the men, women, children, animals, and businesses that have been impacted. Some lost their lives; others lost everything else.
During the tragedy, we witnessed friends, neighbors, and strangers coming to the aid of people and animals in distress. Heroic rescues have been captured on video, giving us firsthand accounts of human compassion at its finest.
As the threat of Hurricane Harvey passes, we see people from all over the nation begin to help financially. We feel compelled and want to help in some way. There are hundreds of organizations serving the affected region that are already receiving the incredible outpouring of support from fellow Americans. Our capacity to care and act in a crisis is one of the greatest traits of human beings.
And, just as the goodness of Americans can yield an awesome amount of money and resources for good, the ugly side of our modern-day culture also rises to exploit the disaster and steal from intended recipients. There are already many scams circulating over social media and other digital formats that appear legitimate but are not. These scammers are acting out of greed and are taking advantage of our human compassion.
Please don’t let this be a reason for not giving, but be wise in how you give. The needs of Hurricane Harvey’s victims are great and will require everything we can give – and more. Here are a few guidelines that will help keep you from unintentionally giving to the wrong people.
If you wish to respond through digital or social media, do not click on any link provided in a message or post. Instead, go to your browser and manually enter the website or the organization you desire to support. An embedded link may take you to a website that may look legitimate, but may, in fact, be a façade for a scam.
If you are giving to or through a local organization, find out what organization they are partnering with to distribute money and/or supplies in a responsible way. Another common trick is for scammers to park a truck or trailer and advertise as a drop-off location for disaster supplies. They later sell the supplies for their own personal gain.
Give only to organizations that can and will account for your gift. If you are giving money, you should receive an acknowledgement and receipt for tax purposes with the nonprofit’s tax id number. While free concerts, barbecues, and crowd funding invitations seeking spontaneous giving may seem like a good way to help, there is often no record of donations and no accountability for how funds will be distributed.
Give to and through organizations you already trust. They have proven to be good stewards of your resources. They should have answers to any of your questions about how donated resources will be distributed.
Give to organizations that deal with immediate needs, but also consider giving to organizations that will be in the trenches long after the media attention dies down.
When in doubt, give to credible national organizations. If still in doubt, check out the organization on Charity Navigator – a website dedicated to nonprofit accountability.read more
It’s always right around this time of year when I fail to remember to do some really important things. Perhaps, most importantly, setting aside time in the coming months to do some serious strategic planning for the year ahead. I know that many of you forget this, too.
Let me acknowledge here that not all nonprofit organizations operate on the same fiscal year. But most schools, and many other types of nonprofits, share the same fiscal year of July 1 through June 30. This article is meant for you. If your organization has a different fiscal year, simply adjust my timeline to fit yours.
So, why worry now about next year’s fundraising plan when we still have so much to do in order to achieve this year’s budget? The answer is simple – because planning never gets the priority or attention that it deserves. Time gets away from us quickly as we sail through the late winter and early spring. There are a large number of events conducted in this timeframe that consume our time, effort and energy. We have to navigate Spring Break and Easter. Next thing we know, it is early June, and we are only a few weeks away from starting over.
So, my message this month is short and sweet:
Today – set aside time on your calendar in April to create your plan for next year
Tomorrow – send out meeting requests to those whom you want to be part of the planning process (staff members, development committee members, etc.)
Later this week – take 15 minutes to draft your ideal planning agenda for the few days you will focus on this task
Invite an outside source (mentor, colleague, or consultant) to join the planning process.
Doing these tasks now will free you from worrying about them for the next four months. You may just impress your boss as well. But most importantly, you will find that the planning process yields great results.
The goal of every nonprofit is to grow the mission. Growing the mission requires growth in the budget. Growth in the budget requires more operational fundraising from the development office. Significant growth in operational funding requires sound strategic planning. Sound strategic planning results from giving it attention and priority. Take the four easy steps above and you won’t be sorry later this year.read more
All too often, the term “major gifts fundraising” is misused, misrepresented, and misunderstood. Nearly every nonprofit professes to do some version of major gifts fundraising, and all consulting firms claim to be major gift experts. However, I believe that few nonprofit organizations have a true major gifts program and even fewer consulting firms grasp the philosophy behind a quality relationship-based funding strategy. In fact, major gifts fundraising often becomes a game of confusing oranges for apples.
We all know that painting an orange red doesn’t really change it into an apple. At first glance, we might think we see an apple, but we quickly realize the difference. Our ability to discern an apple-colored orange from a real apple comes from our knowledge of how a real apple looks, feels, smells and tastes. However, if we did not possess that knowledge, it would be more challenging to perceive the difference.
So what does that have to do with major gifts fundraising?
First, it’s important to agree on a definition of major gift fundraising. It is not simply about asking people for more money, although that is the essence of how it is commonly defined (and constitutes the metaphorical red paint on the orange). Major gifts, or transformational gifts, the term I will usefor the remainder of this article to make a distinction, must represent a philosophy and approach that permeates all aspects of a nonprofit organization.
Transformational giving is the result of creating a unique experience for a single donor, crafted around his or her passions and interests, and built on a solid and trusting relationship nurtured over time. The term “transformational” describes the effect on every part of the relationship and decision-making process – nonprofit leaders, mission and donor.
It is challenging, indeed, for most nonprofit leaders to discern the difference between something called “major gifts fundraising” and what constitutes a true quality, relationship-based, transformational gift strategy. Most have not experienced or witnessed such an approach.
Transformational giving represents the greatest growth potential for every nonprofit, regardless of size and type – no exceptions. From the largest universities to smallest social service agencies, there is always untapped capacity in giving waiting to be realized. Whether you are a part-time development director or part of a 50-member development staff, there is potential for you to reach a fundraising level far beyond your current one.
However, in order for transformational giving to happen, the nonprofit must be willing to reframe the way it thinks about relational fundraising. It cannot come as a result of simply getting the development director some training; he or she must also have the support, participation and complete buy-in of senior staff, the board, communications team, and finance department. If not, the change will be superficial – like painting an orange red.
Let’s consider another analogy: most of us attempt to lose a few pounds at one time or another. We buy diet books or try fad diets or weight loss systems. The result – we lose a few pounds, but find that it is difficult to maintain the weight loss. That is because we rarely allow our lifestyle to be changed. We go back to eating, exercising and living the way we always have, and then are disappointed that the weight loss was temporary.
This is a perfect analogy for the challenges a development office faces as it attempts to build a major or transformational gifts program. Permanent change in a development philosophy is as difficult to achieve as permanent weight loss – but it is possible. Here is some advice as you plan the year ahead and seek to implement true transformational gifts fundraising:
Make sure you have buy-in and support from your boss
Partner with a board member or two to ensure the entire organization understands the philosophy and vision of the strategy
Beware of the consultants who, like diet books and fads, bring only superficial change
Find a consultant who is a trusted advisor and who will function more like a personal trainer to guide, support, and help you through all aspects of institutional change
You represent a mission that wants to grow and requires funding to do so. Believe that there is enormous potential within your existing donor base that can be realized with a quality, transformational gift strategy. Getting the right guidance and support will help you to avoid the frustration of misfires and temporary gain.read more
As a career consultant who has worked with countless nonprofits, I spend most of my time focusing on the top of each client’s donor portfolio – the largest gifts. Helping a development staff, Board and executive leadership establish a sound, relationship-based principal gifts strategy provides the greatest short-term gain, as well as long-term revenue retention. But where does long-term growth come from? The answer or “secret sauce” to a thriving and growing development operation is a strategic mid-level donor strategy.
For most small- to medium-sized nonprofits, the monthly (sometimes daily) challenge is to raise enough money to keep the door open and the mission alive. It is truly a discipline to take the time to plan strategically for the future and have the patience to wait for the results of your efforts. Investing today when we may not see the return for a few years goes against our fast-paced “I want it now” culture. For those of you who are parents, this probably sounds familiar. Nowhere does this principle apply more than in parenting. As a father of four kids, I consistently attempt to impart my wisdom to them about the foreign concept of delayed gratification.
For a nonprofit, the real questions that must be answered are:
Where will our next 25 to 50 major donors come from?
How does a smaller donor grow into a major donor?
How can we prepare for the day when our current top donors are gone or unable to continue funding the mission by themselves?
The answer: build a solid mid-level donor strategy!
So let’s start by defining what a mid-level donor strategy is. My definition will surprise you because it has little to do with the amount donors give and everything to do with the manner in which they are engaged by the organization. A solid mid-level strategy is about transitioning the donor from a transactional means of giving (typically events and direct mail) to a relationship-based form of giving. In short, a mid-level donor strategy should be about transitioning a donor’s relationship from the mailbox to a person.
A vital resource necessary to establish a good mid-level donor strategy is the person who will be the champion and ambassador for a mid-level donor portfolio. Ideally, this is a full-time member of the development staff. In a small nonprofit, this person may be a part-timer, board member or volunteer. Regardless, it is the role and responsibility of this person to personally relate to the mid-level segment of donors.
Relating to the mid-level donors can take many forms, as long as it involves personal interaction. Personal interaction means phone conversations or small group meetings. It does not include emails, tweets, or voice messages. Remember, the aim is to establish a personal relationship – not simply raise money. The primary goal is to engage donors who have given through mass-marketing efforts and, over time, promote those donors to the major and principal gifts portfolio. This implies that the donor is now ready for a face-to-face, personal relationship plan.
For those of you who have attended our workshops or webinars, you have probably heard me walk through the relationship pyramid as an illustration of a sound development strategy. But the relationship pyramid is also an accurate picture of relationships in our personal lives. At the bottom of the pyramid are all of the people we know – perhaps our Facebook friends or holiday card list. At the top of the pyramid are our best friends in the world – the two or three people in whom we invest the most.
We meet new people every day and add them to our personal portfolio of friends and acquaintances. Some of those we meet move into deeper relationship with us. A few make it to the top. The point of the illustration is that there is a path for some of the people we meet to move into deeper relationship with us. So, too, should be the case for a new donor who gives through your mass marketing efforts. It is the mid-level donor strategy (the secret sauce in the middle) that connects the more impersonal transactional fundraising to the personal, transformational fundraising.
So, take some time to think about the broader long-term strategy of your development efforts. Invest today in a mid-level strategy and watch how your major gifts efforts benefit in the years ahead.read more
The very term “major gifts” is intimidating to many. What does it mean? Who are these so-called major donors? These are the questions asked every day by organizations that haven’t yet ventured into a relational model of fundraising.
In some regard, the fundraising world has changed dramatically since I started consulting with non-profits over 30 years ago. Technology has put a new face on much of what happens in a development office, from the way it communicates to the way it records results and measures progress. However, one area that technology has not replaced, and I personally believe never will, is the manner and means of communicating with the large donor.
If I asked you to describe your social life outside of work, you would likely talk about a group of friends associated with things like your church, neighborhood or sports teams. These are all friends that we make through social activities and maintain in a variety of ways – most certainly including face time. This hasn’t really changed much in my lifetime, either.
The amount of time we choose to invest in some personal relationships is significantly more than in other relationships. So, what are the criteria for choosing the specific relationships in which we invest our time? Simple – we invest significantly in relationships that provide us with the greatest return on that investment. If you lock yourself in your home and choose to live life as a recluse, the relationships in which you have invested would soon suffer. If the only means of communication with the people you know is an annual holiday card, then a card is probably all that you will get in return.
Back to major gifts fundraising……
The same logic applies to your donor base. The degree to which you invest in specific donor relationships is directly proportional to the return on that investment. If the only means you use to communicate is a piece of direct mail or an e-blast, don’t be surprised if your return is proportional to that investment.
So how does this relate to managing a major gifts portfolio? It begs the question: how do you spend your time? If it is behind a desk most of the time managing technology, then you are probably living life more closely to the recluse. If you are out having coffee and muffins with donors every day (something technology can’t do for you), then you are probably building some important relationships. And this is the foundational component to successful major gifts fundraising.
Many of you right now are replying, “I am already doing this.” Great! Now let’s talk about how to manage your work more efficiently. The most common error made in major gifts fundraising is with portfolio size. How many donor relationships can you realistically develop and maintain? Not that many.
Let’s go back to your social life for a minute. How many best friends can you have? Not that many. It takes time to build and maintain a close friendship. If our friend portfolio gets too big, we find ourselves with scheduling conflicts and inevitably irritating some friends for choosing others over them. If we believe that key friendships don’t require time and attention, then we are sadly mistaken. We too often take relationships for granted and then are surprised and disappointed when they come to an end.
The same is true with major donors. These relationships are too often taken for granted when we say things like, “We don’t need to do anything special for our donors – they give because they love our mission” or “Our donors don’t want recognition – they give for the right reasons.” Then, one day, a major donor stops giving to your organization, and instead, gives to the organization that better meets his/her passions and interests.
Now, to the close of this speech…
Invest in a few key relationships that are vital to funding your mission.
Make your major gifts portfolio look like your friend portfolio – some friends are more important than others.
If you are a full-time major gifts officer, start with 50 or so donors, initially – it’s best to err on the side of too few. If you have half your time allocated to this kind of work, focus on 25 or so.
And don’t get too hung up on process. Remember, these are people giving for a reason. Try to discover that reason and act on it. A greater investment in these key donor relationships will pay off in dividends.read more
This is a question that all nonprofit organizations ask as they prepare for a capital campaign. And many nonprofits choose the wrong answer for reasons that seem responsible and sound in that moment. The correct – and short – answer is this: a nonprofit organization should engage professional counsel as soon as the need for capital is determined – long before the campaign begins.
Now, let me acknowledge up front that my answer is self-serving – but it is also correct. It is correct because the most consequential errors in campaigns are almost always made before counsel is engaged. When this occurs, the professional firm eventually retained has all it can do to salvage the remaining fundraising potential.
So let me follow the logic that leads so many nonprofits to the incorrect answer. Suppose we are a school that needs to raise $5 million for a new building of some sort. There will be some board members who view the campaign ahead of them and make the following statements:
“This is only fundraising – how hard can it really be?”
“We have so many board members who are successful businessmen and women who can figure this out.”
“We can already see where the first million or two will come from. We should at least get that far and then hire professionals to help us get the money we can’t see today.”
Makes perfect sense, right? WRONG! WRONG! and WRONG!!! Let’s take a time out here and look at the bigger picture (one of my favorite things to say).
Campaigns succeed or fail in the initial months during planning and early solicitation. This is when precedent is set and expectations are established. Yes, it is possible to gather some low-hanging fruit and falsely leap to the conclusion that this fundraising thing is easy. But most campaigns that are managed internally (without professional counsel) hit the wall after those first fruits are gathered. Further, the few gifts that were gathered were not done with the broader vision in mind and the greatest potential is almost never achieved.
This is not like trying to fix your kitchen sink by yourself and then calling in the plumber later to fix it. Once you accept gifts for your campaign, you can’t go back to those donors with the message “that wasn’t good enough.” Once the campaign is announced and gifts are given, the damage is done, the horses are out of the barn, etc.
So, let me offer some advice to you that is only partially self-serving. If you are looking to cut costs in conducting your campaign, don’t choose the beginning of the campaign to do it. Hire professional counsel early in the process and build your effort right from the start. Then, consider conducting the second half of the campaign on your own after the plan, leadership, systems, processes are all in place.
Finally, pick your counsel early and lean on them for advice through the planning process. Most firms will offer that advice for dramatically discounted rates and, sometimes, pro-bono.
When is the right time to engage professional fundraising counsel? Today – if you are planning on launching a campaign in the next 12 months.
For Mission Advancement, it’s nearly all nonprofit organizations … pretty easy answer, right? Think about your mission and vision statements: who the target of your mission is, who the staff and volunteers focus their efforts on. You come up with answers like the students who sit in the classrooms, or the person who is hungry or in need of what it is your mission provides. Well, in one sense you’re right. But in the fundraising sense, you are wrong!
All nonprofit organizations have two customers. The first customers are easy to identify; they are the ones on whom the most effort and energy is focused. They are the reason that your mission and organization exists. The second customers are almost always overlooked and, to some degree, taken for granted, even in the largest and most mature nonprofit organizations. The overlooked customers are the donors who fund your mission.
Now, first I want to ask the forgiveness of the reader for the terminology I am using in this article. Many nonprofits, appropriately so, go to great lengths to use a term more proper than “customers” to describe the beneficiaries of their missions and their generous donors. But for the sake of this article, please bear with me.
Who in your organization wakes up every morning, comes to work, and thinks about the needs of the second type of customer – the donor base? You may be quick to answer, “The development staff.” Again, you’d be right.
Sadly, in most nonprofits, the development staff is the only group that is thinking about the needs of the donor base.
The purpose of this article is not to wag my finger at you. When one considers how nonprofit missions come into being, it is only logical that this phenomenon is so prevalent. Put simply, the idea for a homeless shelter doesn’t start with a desire to raise money. It starts with a desire to help those most in need. Those involved in opening a homeless shelter are focused on how they can impact lives for good and give people a hand up to more productive and rewarding lives. It all begins with a vision for the mission. Somewhere along the way, it dawns on that visionary leader that this mission will require a lot of money.
One very important concept that all who are involved in nonprofit missions need to grasp is that it always takes two customers to make it work. Both customers must have priority, attention and consideration from all who are involved in leading the mission. It is easy, and even intuitive, for a nonprofit organization to understand the needs of its first customer – but much more difficult to understand the needs of the second customer (the donor base). What do your donors need from you?
The quick answer is: more than a thank-you note or a call. Each donor gives for a reason. Donors all have needs and expectations. It is a relationship or their passions and interests that brought them to your mission. What do you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to communicate that each decision to give is a good decision?
The answer to that question will take us far beyond what I can include in this brief article. But it is the right question for the leadership of all nonprofit organizations to ponder. As you begin to plan for growth in your mission, consider taking some time at an all-staff and Board meeting to help everyone understand:
Your nonprofit organization has two different sets of customers.
Both sets of customers are vital to the success of your mission.
Each set has their own needs, and it is critical to understand those needs in order to appropriately address them.
The two customers need each other. The extent to which you can bring them together determines the extent to which you can transform both customers’ lives.read more
Most of us in the field of development are familiar with the term “donor fatigue.” While specific definitions will vary, most of us would agree that donor fatigue occurs when we go to the same well too many times for financial support. We have this image of donors responding to our request for support by saying, “Really? Again? Am I the only one who gives to this mission?”
So, let’s start with the truth. Yes, it is true that most nonprofits go to the same donors too many times each year. In fact, our (Mission Advancement Professionals) work with development offices throughout the country tells us that independent schools ask their core donor base for money an average of 18 times each year. Social and human service agencies ask an average of 12 times each year. In other words, every time these organizations interact with key donors, their hands are out.
Now, multiply the number of annual “asks” by five. That is approximately the number of nonprofits that the average donor supports. Triple that number to account for the requests that are declined by the average donor. I have already lost count, but we are way beyond reasonable. You can easily see how donors could become fatigued with this extraordinary number of solicitations.
To be fair, there are marketing professionals who will tell you that the more you ask, the more donors will give. Since I am not a mass marketing expert, I am not well versed on the exact statistics, but I have experience with professionals in mass marketing who suggest that nonprofits dramatically increase the number of times they ask, believing the axiom – ask more often, get more often.
So, at the risk of alienating some of my good friends in the mass marketing world, I say BALONEY! Enough already! Just because you can ask more often and get a little more doesn’t mean you should!
If I ask my good friend Stuart for $50 today, he would give it to me without hesitation. If I asked him for $50 tomorrow, he would give it to me again. If I asked a third time, he would probably ask me what is going on, and then give it to me a third time. But now I am stressing our relationship. If this went on, he would eventually say “no,” and our relationship would be damaged.
Isn’t development really about building and deepening relationships? Most would offer that answer when asked, but then behave in a way that says otherwise.
News flash: development really is about relationships! And these relationships must be kept in balance – meaning that donors should receive something they personally value in return for their giving. If this basic principle were followed, then there would be no donor fatigue. Fatigue comes from donors who are unfulfilled in their giving and whose relationships are out of balance with the nonprofits they support.
Okay, so I admit I am a bit worked up over this, but I am done with my rant. Here is some practical advice for all development offices:
Remember that you are establishing and deepening relationships with real people
Try to step into your donors’ shoes and gather a sense for how they experience your organization.
Consider consolidating the number of requests to one or two for your most important donor relationships. Then, make a point of interacting with them two or three times a year without asking them for money. In other words, treat them as something more than a checkbook.
Put creative energy into how you help your most important donors feel fulfilled in their giving. If someone gives $25,000 to the annual fund, help them understand how your organization spent the gift and how it changed people’s lives.
Just my two cents: If you try the suggestions above, you will see some exciting results. And donor fatigue? It will be replaced with donor passion.
We have all daydreamed of an angel-donor who appears out of nowhere and drops in our laps a massive amount of money for our mission. Think of the immediate financial problems it would solve: It would completely take away the stress associated with managing monthly cash flow. It could also make those grandiose dreams of expansion an immediate reality. But is there a downside? In short, yes – if not managed properly, a mega-gift can often create more harm than good, and can sometimes lead to the demise of a nonprofit organization.
I was channel surfing late one night when I came across a documentary following previous lottery winners. You can already see where this is going, because we have all heard enough stories about lives being ruined by financial windfalls. It is true – with very few exceptions – when millions of un-earned dollars drop in the laps of normal people, more bad things happen than good.
Most of the lottery-winner stories in the program began with the elation and celebration of winning, and circumstances went downhill quickly from there. Most of the stories included divorce, loss of friends, depression, lack of self-worth, and the loss of most of the money. A few even ended in the attempted murder of a spouse.
Now, to be fair, there were a few success stories as well. These were people who strategically prepared before they allowed any significant change to happen in their lives. They were smart about it! They maintained their values, integrity, and life strategy and did not let the money take over. In fact, in every success case they continued to work at their jobs, even though they had no financial need to do so.
Even after watching this documentary, I must confess that, like many of you, I would be willing to take on the challenges of winning the lottery. Think of the good we could do!
When a nonprofit mission becomes the beneficiary of a seven- or eight-figure gift amounting to multiples of its annual budget, it can have the same result as an individual winning the lottery. I have personally witnessed this in three organizations in the past few years – and watched them manage the gifts in three very different ways.
An independent school received $10 million from a single donor to provide operational support to the school and remove the need for the school to do so many special events (golf tournament, auction, gala, etc.). Once the news of the gift broke, there was first celebration, followed by a downhill slide. The large gift came from one donor who was known to have a net-worth of more than a billion dollars. That huge gift sent the message that this donor would take care of funding the school’s needs. The result was that the rest of the school’s donor base stopped giving because they believed they were not needed.
This school quickly realized that it had not managed the large gift properly, and set about trying to counter the negative impact. Although it has taken a few years of hard work, this school has mostly recovered and nearly brought giving back up to where it was before the receipt of the gift.
A mid-sized social service agency received a $50 million gift in the midst of trying to raise only $25 million in a capital campaign to build a new facility. Twice the goal in one gift. Not bad, right? Wrong! The mega-gift donor gave the gift with multiple strings attached, one of which was a demand that they stop raising money from other donors. Other strings attached to the gift were related to changes in the floor plans and appearance of the proposed facility. This was an ego-driven gift of a size that would put all of us in the same dilemma: do we take it, or walk away from it?
This nonprofit decided to take the gift and then to put all of its energy into satisfying the donor. It is struggling to this day doing just that. Meanwhile, the broad and generous donor constituency has been left out in the cold and the nonprofit will likely not rebound quickly from this situation.
A small college in the midst of a $25 million capital campaign received news that an out-of-state anonymous donor wished to give $25 million. While the notification of the gift provided some distraction for the board and staff, an emergency strategy meeting was immediately called to discuss the ramifications of such a gift. After much discussion, the college adopted a position to strategically channel the large gift into an area that was not currently being addressed by the capital campaign. Further, the college expanded the campaign to $50 million and utilized the gift as a challenge to motivate the broader donor base to act.
The result is that the college is making excellent progress toward its goal of $50 million, and there is more excitement than ever about giving to the campaign.
Three stories with three different outcomes – the difference being how each nonprofit allowed itself to be changed by a windfall of money. The lesson is to stick to your values and never abandon the base of donors that you depend on to sustain your mission. Just like the lottery and unsuspecting winners, an eight-figure gift can ruin a nonprofit if not managed properly. Receiving such a gift should never be a reason to slow down or stop fundraising. Rather, it should make the participation of other donors more important than ever.read more
Whose job is it within your organization to raise money? Most who answer this question give the name of the Development Director – and they would be wrong. The right answer is every staff member, every board member, and every volunteer. Creating the right mindset among the entire team will lead to new opportunities for growth in your mission.
Asking whose job it is to raise the money is a little like asking whose job it is to keep the house clean at home. If my kids were asked this question, they would quickly and incorrectly respond that it is Mom’s job to keep our house clean. That is because Mom (my wife) is the one who manages our house and makes sure that everything gets done. So while it is true that their Mom is the force behind keeping the house clean, it is the entire family’s job to actually do the work.
This mindset is a common and recurring problem in non-profits stemming from the notion that raising funds is something most want no part of. Fundraising is the activity that is often excluded in statements from staff and volunteers when they say “I will do anything for this organization as long as I don’t have to ask people for money” or, “I am not good at fundraising.”
There is an inherent fear of fundraising in many people. It is this fear that leads to decisions that take the path of least resistance – to only conduct non-intrusive, non-confrontational fundraising events like auctions and golf tournaments. This is a widely-held and incorrect mindset that leaves a single person (the Development Director) left to raise all of the money.
So to all other staff and volunteer support in nonprofits, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you are all part of the development team whether you like it or not! The good news is that you don’t have to ask other people for money to be part of the team. There are other functions to perform that do not involve asking for money. But for the sake of this article, I will focus on the majority of the team who can and should get involved in asking others to give.
We are all gifted in different ways. To think that we all must be able to perform in one specific way equally is a misconception and an assumption that will only lead to frustration. That being said, fear of asking others for money is not a great reason for not trying it. In most cases, people fear something because of two reasons:
- They don’t know how to do it.
- They don’t have the proper mindset.
So let’s attack each one of these. Knowing how to ask for money is academic and can be resolved by having a reliable and credible resource lead a training and orientation session with board and staff members. A thorough understanding of the entire invitation process, supportive tools and material, and role playing can ease the anxiety associated with asking and even help most get comfortable with something they never thought possible.
Adopting the proper mindset involves simply thinking through the logic and perspective of representing a nonprofit.
As a volunteer or staff member (non-Development Staff) of a nonprofit, you have chosen to associate yourself with a mission in which you believe and, therefore, are the best possible representative to extend the invitation to others. In a very real sense, you are better positioned to ask others than the Development Director, who is the only person paid to ask others.
When you invite others to give, you are doing so to fund a mission that you are passionate about and, presumably, that you have already supported personally. You are simply asking others to join in support of a worthy mission.
When you extend an invitation to give, you are passing on something that has enriched your life in some way and that you believe will enrich others lives in the same way if they choose to give. In this sense, it is no different than recommending a good book or movie.
So before you say “no” to getting involved or before you accept “no” too easily from others, give a second thought to adopting the proper mindset, and then getting the appropriate training to make it happen. The Development Director is not the only fundraiser in the house. Rather, the Development Director is the paid fundraiser and coordinator of a Development team that includes everyone in your organization.read more