Fundraising’s not about money – what did I say?

What’s more – fundraising is NOT about asking, either.

Why? Because if you just focus on the money, you’ll drive your donors away.

In fact, if you make it all about money,  you probably have just shot yourself in the foot. You’re likely to be turned down more often than not.

Taking it a step further, comprehensive capital campaigns are not about an extraordinary dollar goal.  Instead, capital campaigns are about transforming an organization’s ability to address community issues, locally and globally.

What drives major and transformational gifts in a big campaign? It’s not the ask or the money. It’s actually Big Ideas about who you can be and what you can do for the community. 

The Dark Side of Fundraising

Yup, fundraising has a dark side.  A yucky dark side.

That’s when you are all about the money.

When you treat your donors like ATMs, you dirty your work.  When you are talking money, money, money,  you are on the wrong track.

Have you ever heard a donor say, “We feel like an ATM?” That means you are doing it WRONG!

It seems so natural to ask for money, and miss the boat of championing a better world.

Board members and CEO’s – don’t make these mistakes!

Many board members make the mistake of equating fundraising with “just going out there and asking.”

I have seen, far too often, a well-meaning, enthusiastic and completely unprepared board member rush up to a major donor and blurt out a whopper of an ask.

The satisfied board member thinks they’ve done a great job “fundraising.” But the donor feels like it’s a huge affront – and recoils like someone just threw mud in her face. 

Now we are trying to clean up and repair the relationship with the donor – which may never recover from this incredible awkward and ill-timed ask. 

Some nonprofit CEO’s expect their staff to ask all the time.  They push fundraisers out the door and say “I expect you to be asking. I don’t care about donor relationships.”

The Magnificent Side of Fundraising

Fundraising has a magnificent side – where you are standing high up on the hill, white light shining all around you, taking a stand for your fellow human beings.

It’s weird:  one activity – fundraising – can be construed as awkward, demeaning, or even begging.

On the other hand, fundraising can be considered one of the most important and magnificent things a person can ever do.

You are garnering resources to relieve suffering, help people, and give them opportunity, hope, and safety. To nurture our lovely planet.

Wow. That’s where I want to spend my life’s energy! How about you?

So don’t let people get away with thinking that fundraising is all about asking. It’s emphatically NOT!

A Fundraising Lesson from my Yoga Teacher

One day, I walked into my yoga class at the YMCA. And Julie, my ethereal yoga teacher, was just chatting with the class in her lilting voice.

Julie gushed to us, “Class! Guess what! The Y is having our ‘We Build People Campaign’ right now – and we are SENDING KIDS TO CAMP.”

She was sooooo excited about these kids going to camp. And it was genuine.

Her enthusiasm was infectious. We all got excited about the kids going to camp. She was telling us these wonderful stories about kids what kids get to do at camp and how important it is for them.

Then she made a joyful, happy, hopeful ask. She said,

“I want my class to pull together and send ONE KID to camp. – It’s only $90 and I bet we can do it!”

We all just rushed to grab our wallets and make a contribution.

Did we feel like she wanted our money? NO.

Instead, We felt like we were helping someone and it felt so good.

Tip: Don’t make it about “money.” Instead make it about something happy – the impact.

Julie moved the fundraising talk away from “money” and put it in terms of “people.”

When you talk about the good you want to create in the world – the lives saved, kids healed, rivers cleaned, elderly cared for, art produced, then you make magic. 

You can strengthen any ask when you make it about the people you are helping.

Examples: Link the ask/money to a specific purpose:

  • If we can get a new staff counselor, which will cost $xxx, then we won’t have to turn kids away.
  • The school needs a new roof to ensure our kids a safe, sound place of learning. It will cost xxxx.
  • We are turning away kids who are asking for a Big Brother or Big Sister to mentor them. Will your church or organization sponsor 5 kids for $5,000?

These are all ways to frame an ask in a joyful, compelling way that connects the donor with a happy outcome or result.

Bottom Line: Fundraising’s not about money!

Make fundraising about the end result, not the money.

OK so what do you think?

Leave me a comment or a question!

Do you want to have successful Advice Visits? Here’s how this strategy can support your major gift and capital campaign fundraising.  We think Advice Visits can be a golden key to opening any donor or potential donor’s heart to your cause.

We have used Advice Visits time and time again.  They are based on the old adage:

“If you want money, ask for advice.

If you want advice, ask for money.”

Rule One: Make Sure the Person You Visit Does as Much of the Talking as Possible

You are after their advice and thinking. Only tell them enough about your project to keep him interested.

The important points are to share your personal passion and excitement for the cause and why you are personally involved.

As you tell your person about your cause and seek their advice and input, you should be watching carefully for their reaction.

If your prospect seems to not be very interested in your cause, then you should not drag on. Even more, if you are perceived as boring or droning on and on, you will never be welcomed back! It’s always important to  make sure you are interesting, not boring.

The kiss of death for any fundraiser is to be boring. And the best way to be boring is to talk too much.

You are the one listening, not talking!

Rule Two: Ask for a Short Appointment and Leave at the End of That Time

Always practice good manners and get up to leave when you said you would.  If your prospect is on a roll, talking and talking, and asks you to stay, then do so.

But never overstay your welcome.

When you are an important, extremely busy person, nothing is worse than a well-meaning visitor who stays forever.

However, if you are interesting and keep the meeting short, then your prospect will be much more likely to see you again when you ask for another visit.

It is even good to end the meeting deliberately when the person is not quite finished talking, even if he has warmed to the topic and has plenty more to say.

Then, when you call for a follow-up visit, he will be happy, even eager to visit with you again, because he has more to say and knows you will keep him too long.

Rule Three for Successful Advice Visits: Don’t Make an Ask

Many nonprofit it supporters think they need to do a “pitch” when they have this visit. They got in the door or on zoom, and they think this is their big chance to make an pitch

A pitch is the last thing you should do. It will ruin everything.

Instead, you should be quiet and listen. Remember, the more your donor mulls about your cause and your issue, the more interested they will become. On the other hand, if you make a presentation and your donor just sits there passively, they are not engaging with you. Since your goal is to get your donor thinking and talking about your organization and its challenge, then by all means, let them talk.

People will offer to do so many things for you!

If they suggest a prominent person in the community whom you should approach, then always ask them if they will help open the door to that person.

That way you will not be making a cold call; this influential person will be helping to make the introduction, in effect, blessing you and your cause.

Bottom Line: Rules for Successful Advice Visits

When you are all about the donor, and encouraging their interest in your organizations work, you are successfully moving the relationship forward.