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!