As we all know, there can be tremendous fear of fundraising within your organization. It can be perceived as begging, that asking for money somehow diminishes the asker. If that were true, very would be very little fundraising going on. Instead, the development of resources and revenues has never been more important for the health of any nonprofit.
Key to any effort is the attitude we have about it. If I really don’t feel comfortable or worthy when I solicit a contribution, it is going to be painful all around. On the other hand, if I see what I am doing as essential and valuable and in fact, an honorable thing to do, I will be able to convey that confidence to my conversations. When those fears can be overcome and replaced with passion and pride, fundraising will not be something to be avoided, and something to be embraced.
The top fears are:
- fear of asking,
- the fear of rejection,
- the lack of confidence in what is being are asked for and why,
- how to accept a no gracefully.
Have you heard any of the following phrases?
- Oh, I hate fundraising.
- I don’t want to “badger friends for money”
- I give my time — why should I also give my money?
- I don’t have any money to give.
- I want to focus on mission, not money.
Fundraising is often not perceived to be movement building; it is seen as a necessary evil, something someone else should do, and a symptom of what is wrong with capitalism. It is not seen as important as strategic planning or direct benefit programs, yet those none of those things cannot happen without financial support.
There is no mission without money. Simple.
Development is not only raising money, is a strategic process to identify, cultivate, solicit, recognize, and steward donors as well as prospects. It is producing events, sharing your mission and results, seeking new members and recruiting board members. Development is partnership with other related organizations and coalitions; finding opportunities to generate income and awareness of what you do.
Think about the words themselves: advancement, development, resource acquisition; the word money is not there. Fundraising is the transactional part of giving; development the relational part.
The reality is fundraising IS movement building, it is change-making. It is one of the many ways that you can educate and communicate the importance of what you do. Your donors are your members, advocates and stakeholders; are emotionally committed to your mission. They are your ambassadors and missionaries to the outside world.
Change Attitudes, Change Behavior & Change Outcomes
First you have to begin the process of an attitude shift: that fundraising is an honorable and necessary part of the development for your organization. It’s not a necessary evil, rather it is opportunity to discuss what you care so much about and include others in your goals. This is an invitation to join you, to support what you do, make the changes you seek real.
Changing the perception of fundraising includes 3 basic components:
- Thoughts and feelings: the heartset and mindset. The emotional component; how do we feel about what we are doing?
- Expectations and actions: This is the behavior component; what choices do we make?
- How it all works: the systems and practices; how is all this organized to work smoothly, internally and externally?
Try these approaches:
- Engage emotions by creating a fundraising vision statement to clarify the importance of fundraising for your organization. Ask your board to help develop the wording to include them in the execution of these plans. Talk about how much you care, why it matters.
- Ask board and members to share their stories of fundraising: their first gift, the most memorable, the largest or most recent. Make fundraising real, how does it happen for them?
- Have each board member make a personal fundraising plan for the year. What do they want to accomplish, what outreach they would like to pursue and programs do they want to expand. How will they make sure they get done what they promise?
- Establish the tradition of financial growth goals every year, make them reasonable and achievable. (1-3% growth of your annual budget).
- Establish a board fundraising committee and appoint a member to oversee board participation in development activities, board fundraising and encourage accountability.
- Celebrate success as soon as it occurs; provide reports on progress at least once a year, preferably twice. Make a big deal of them.
- Build a donor management system to track what comes in, from who, when and why. Begin to accumulate data about your donors and members; this will help you set clear targets for membership numbers, income, board dues, and other campaigns going forward.
- Be sure your internal systems of accounting and reporting work smoothly and provide reliable information. Make it really easy for donors to give via your donation options on your web page or mailer and make sure your acknowledgements and thank yous are sent out promptly.
- Keep good, detailed records and produce readable reports regularly to your board.
What You Already Have:
If you wonder who is out there to ask, there are quite a few. Your board, your members and your students have already shown their interest in your work. They are knowledgeable and dedicated to your cause so logically, they will be the first group of people to contact. Build network of new contacts from this base and include them in your communications plan. As stakeholders in the sustainability and growth of your organization, board members set an example by stepping up first to contribute. They intimately know the cost of running your nonprofit.
How many conversations do you have among your board, staff and others about your organization every year? Consider including a request for support to a small percentage of off of those conversations. Not asking is the same as a no. A conversation about fundraising does not necessarily mean asking for money, it can be the discussion of an upcoming fundraising plan, and the necessity to find contributions or fundraising events in the future.
Ready? A few final notes:
Find the fun and joy in this; be sure you keep your sense of humor, if you are miserable or scared, that is how you will come across. There are plenty of things to laugh about in fundraising, don’t you think?
Remember the message that this is not begging; this is for the good of the organization, the mission and the vision you have of the future. Be proud of the fact you are working to change the world.
Be creative, try something new. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, perhaps an online photo or poetry competition, a new column in the newsletter, volunteer stories, stories from the shelters and students.
Avoid seeking perfection. You have to run before you can walk, and this is going to take some time. Be glad for the progress you make and be sure to share it. Be patient and acknowledge the forward steps you are making.
There is nobility is choosing to support something greater than ourselves, have pride in caring enough to take the steps necessary to keep the doors open and the lights on.
You can do this!
Good luck –do call if we can help you engineer this positive change. 310 828 6979
image credit: jennfortner.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/begging-and-inviting-e28094