Show Me the Money: How to Move From Friendraising to Fundraising

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In my regular column I write for the Guidestar newsletter, a smart reader sent me the $64,000 question:

“All your talk about “friendraising” is great, but show me the money! My organization needs funding right now!”

You’re exactly right to focus on getting the funds that you need.

Here’s my perspective on asking:

I absolutely don’t believe in cold calls. I believe in making friends first.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be solicited without some introduction to the organization asking me. I like to be “warmed up” a bit.

It’s sorta like asking someone out on a date; you can’t just ask out of the blue.

I like to “warm up” my prospective donors before I ask them—and there are lots of ways to do this, to introduce them to the cause and see if they want to participate.

And studies show that the more contacts you have with a prospective donor before the solicitation, the higher the gift from that donor.

The ultimate key to successful fundraising is this:

Getting your donors as passionate about the cause as you are. If you can do that, then fundraising is a piece of cake.

So here’s an appropriate ask:

Step one: You warm up the donor as much as practical, or as much as time allows.

Step two: You get to know him or her, and you find out why he or she is interested in your cause.

Step three: You listen to learn the donor’s story, and you find out what he or she is most interested in at your organization. You also get an idea of what kind of gift the donor might consider.

Step four: When you feel that the donor wants to help and is ready to be asked, you set up an “ask” meeting.

Step five: In the meeting, you present the opportunity and you invite the donor to participate.

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For example, when you ask, you might say:

(I’m oversimplifying here):

  • “We have an opportunity to keep more people from rotating in and out of their homelessness situation.
  • “Our agency wants to add counseling and case workers to help.
  • “If we can do this, we think we can reduce homelessness in our community by x%.
  • “The new counselors and case workers will require an investment of $xx.
  • “I know you are interested in this program because we’ve discussed it a lot.
  • “Would you consider a gift of $xx to help homeless people in our community achieve stability and a home?

This is how you move from “friendraising,” which opens the door, to deeper involvement with the donor, and finally to a solicitation for something the donor cares about.

This process is what creates sustainable fundraising—friends who will stick with your cause for the long haul.

Thanks again for all the comments on my articles and posts this year. I’m glad I have been able to provoke and inspire you with some new energy and ideas!

Also check out my May 2010 article: “Six Steps To The Perfect Ask.”

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!