Development and fundraising are often considered the lifeblood of nonprofit enterprise; it is the way programs and operations are supported. Development encompasses fundraising as well as other activities to promote the public profile and financial health of the nonprofit. Fundraising tends to have shorter campaign times while development is strategic and ongoing. There is often fear and resistance to asking for support- board members often reflexivity resist, ” I really hate fundraising” or ” I would rather give my time than my money” are often heard. However developing support for the work of the mission is vital, without income, the mission can’t get delivered nor the vision of the future realized.
For many people, asking for support can be one of the most fear inducing aspects of the fundraising process. There is a pervasive, and wrong, perception that seeking donations and contributions is akin to begging.
This sets up an unbalanced relationship between the asker and the person being asked and can feel as if the act of asking itself diminishes the person asking and the reason for the request. With this mindset, things start off on the wrong foot. It is important to change this mindset and change the entire dynamic between the 2 parties. What needs to happen?
The primary driver of that fear is the fear of rejection; of marshaling of your courage to ask and take the very real chance of being rejected.
Fear of rejection= no one want to be rejected. We do know, though, that not asking is a for sure no…..let’s not let that happen.
There are some straightforward ways to address the fear and reduce the terror.
Philosophically- fundraising is not begging, in fact it is an honorable way to support the effort of the nonprofit and mission you have determined is important. Here is wher that change of mindset takes place.
Be proud that you are willing to step up to see to it that your nonprofit’s work is getting done. You are doing an honorable and right thing.
Below are some suggestions about how to make the ask less scary for both of you.
Clean up your backyard: be sure your mission statement, vision statement, programs discussion, elevator speech, website, donation page and user experience that is your face to the outside world is as polished as it can be.
Being able to succinctly and accurately tell anyone who asks who you are, where you are, what you do and why you do it is critical. Doing this shows your listeners that you are well prepared to talk about what you do and its importance; a vitally important part of your conversation.
Do your homework: Who are you asking? Know important facts about the person or company that you are asking. Who are they, what do they do, why you are asking them.
- Who have they supported in the past, what other causes do they feel are important?
- What are you offering them, besides the opportunity to give?
- What’s in it for them- other than good deeds, what benefit will supporting you provide for them?
- What do they need to hear, what kind of language do they use and what kinds of activities do they do?
- Who are their customers?
- Why are you asking this particular person or company.
- Ideally, what would you like from them.
Check these items before you ask:
Have they given to you before, if so, when, for how much and for what reason/campaign?
Did someone suggest or recommend them, a board or staff member? Could you get an introduction to smooth the path? Do you know people in common?
2. Create Options
Be clear about what are you asking for, have a range of amounts that apply to each category:
- Special Event
- Major gifts
- Annual Fund
- Fundraising event
- Capitol Campaign
3. Menu Choices
For many people numbers can be abstract unless they have a connection to something we understand. Tie an activity or outcome to different amounts in several of the above categories.
- $5 pays for 12 meals at the animal shelter.
- $15 buys books and notebooks for 5 kids at the after school program.
- $25 provides lunches for 5 kids for a week.
- $50 delivers first aid materials to the volunteer fire department.
- $100 covers tuition for one student for 9 months.
Think carefully about your language and the words you choose.
Rather than focus on the money aspect, create your conversation around the identity of your donor and the emotional return they receive for their participation. Choose your verbs thoughtfully: instead of donating, suggest building, changing, joining, partnering. Consider active and engaged words rather than passive language- discuss what their support enables you do to.
- Practice each part of your ask: information about the organization, what the gift will do and impact of their gift on your operations. Be polished, be brief and to the point.
- What are their names and titles, if applicable?
- How do you want to open the conversation:
- thank them for their time and interest,
- discuss know why you are there,
- ask questions that focus on them and their concerns.
Listening is one of your most powerful aspects of your conversation. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have about the organization, your mission and programs and results. The conversation is about this donor, now; active listening can provide you with tremendous detail about why they are talking with you, what they are seeking and what obstacles may exist. Active listening means understanding what they have just said and responding with the information they need to hear not only what you need to say.
Pay attention to this input and customize your responses accordingly.
6. What If They Say No?
For both sides, no can be uncomfortable. You for sure don’t want to hear it, and quite often the donor doesn’t want to have to say it. In real life, we get no a lot more frequently than we get yes, so we ought to be more comfortable with it, but it is still less than pleasant.
Again, preparing for this very real possibility will make it easier for both of you.
Here are some things you can say if you hear ” I’m sorry, but….”
- Thanks for listening and your time.
- For the future, what would you need to see/ hear to consider us (more favorably)?
- I understand the pressure you must feel with some many requests, I appreciate your candid feedback.
- May we be in touch going forward? *
* This doesn’t mean only to solicit funds, but a short contact once or twice over the next year with an email, newsletter, invitation, notice. Ask them what would be preferable to keep them updated but not intrusive.
7. What If They Say Yes?
Sincere joy is a good response as well the automatic thank you. Be sure you are clear on the details, how will the gift be paid, when and what paperwork they require, above those mandated by law.
Some closing questions for them:
How can we share ongoing updates- what’s best for you?
What kinds of communication from you are preferable?
- Notices, press releases
- Frequency- how often do they want to hear from you?
8. Be As Good As Your Word
Actions speak louder than words: do what you say you will. If you say you will call, do so; if you say you will write about their support on your website or in the newsletter, do it.
Follow up immediately with paperwork: initially with the acknowledgement with details of the donation. Then hand signed or written thanks, a call from a Board member or senior staff members.
Provide periodic updates- short, to the point and mostly positive.
9. Prepare For Next Time
Donor retention, or donor attrition, is one of the biggest concerns in development and fundraising as over 2/3 of first time donors do not come back again.
The first gift is critical of course, while the second, third and fourth are as important as the first. It costs up to 7 times as much to reach a new donor as it is to retain an existing one. Establish this relationship with the idea that this is only the beginning. Give some thought to how this relationship can be nurtured for next year and the year after. What will this donor need to come back to you next year and the year after?
Keep good records of gifts. Track the giving activity and your communications with these donors to set up a growth program for you both.
Consider the timing of their gift, the amount and where they wish to see their gifts going and what they are doing.
How’d You Do?
There is a dream, or nightmare actually, of walking into a test and being utterly unprepared, it’s an awful feeling. This is a very simple one to avoid when making requests for support for a cause you care so much about. Take the terror away by doing the homework, knowing the facts, practicing what to say, even hello! and pay attention to their conversation.
You might be surprised at not only the yes’s you will get but how that can change an entire attitude toward doing this urgent, crucial and critical work.
Need some coaching to reduce the fear and increase the gift? Let us help you help you, call today! 310 828 6978
image credit: https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/BigAsk.