The Short Answer to the Most Asked Question
I love the work that I do. I love the success stories that many of you have sent me after using my tips or methodology, and I relish the fact that the charitable sector seems to be embracing change much more than it did just a few years ago.
I often receive emails and texts asking me for advice. Typically the questions are about fundraising — specifically, how to secure a donation from someone like me. That’s great and I enjoy providing the advice.
Occasionally, though, the sender wants to ask me “generic” or theoretical questions about obtaining a gift in general, but after some quick back-and-forth messaging, they ask me point blank to fund their organization personally. I don’t love that part. (Especially since by doing so they clearly haven’t read my writings. No relationship in this scenario…)
This week I had one of those latter encounters. A reader asked me what I thought was an interesting question — she asked what I, personally and as a donor, need to experience from a nonprofit in order for me to want to support them financially.
Good question. As many of you know, I deal with answers to that in my book (which you can get on Audible, Kindle, or in hardcover), in the many podcasts and lectures I’ve participated in, and in these newsletters. However, the fundraiser is asking for a “quick and dirty” short list of tips to use immediately.
I can do the shortlist, as long as you, the reader, realize that it’s not at all a comprehensive answer. If “short and simple” got donors to give money to nonprofits, nobody would need the myriad of books and publications out there that provide professional advice to fundraisers and nonprofit leaders.
But I understand that sometimes, to get started on a new path, you need to keep it simple.
Here’s my short answer to the question, and although these tips won’t necessarily get you a donation, they’ll at least get you started on the path to doing so. The first hurdle is realizing that change is necessary and, in this case, a very good thing. Once you accept that, try this:
Treat the donor as you would want to be treated. Don't pander and don't assume.
Convey to the donor why you're doing the hard work of fundraising, and why you (personally!) have dedicated your time to what your organization does. Be clear on what your group’s mission is.
If the potential donor isn't "into" what your NPO does, let it go. Better yet, if you know another organization that does fit the interests of that potential donor, make the connection to them!
Be clear to the donor about one or more particular needs you have. The more specific, the better (i.e. "we could help 5 more kids if we had more funds..." or "we recognize a need for this particular project, but we can't do it without an infusion of resources".)
If possible, give the potential donor an opportunity to give something non-monetary to the organization. If they want to “get their hands dirty”, tell them about the volunteer opportunities you have. There is no reason to keep volunteers siloed from donors. (In fact, doing so couldn’t be more counterproductive in the big picture.)
Most importantly, see if you can build an authentic relationship with the donor based on your shared passion for the cause. If you have that, asking for funding isn't so challenging -- in fact, they might even ask YOU how they can make the most impact.
Remember that donors are human beings, and all of us — regardless of our means — have donated something to someone at some time. Once you accept that fact, it’s easier to see how a donor might respond to your pitches. If you (personally) would be turned off by your pitch, chances are good that the donor you’re soliciting will feel the same way.
For the longer, more comprehensive answer to the question above, check out more newsletters like this one here on Philanthropy 451, in my bestselling book, Philanthropy Revolution, or on Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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