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Friday, September 17, 2010

Key Takeaways from the Fundamentals of Fundraising

We recently presented two modules of the AFP Fundamentals of Fundraising in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Hopi Reservation (and across the street from the Navajo Reservation.) The discussion and questions from our participants made us think about what key points really need to be communicated to people new to fundraising. Here are our thoughts:


  1. Make sure everyone agrees on the definitions.
    What is philanthropy? What's a “major gift”? What does each person think of when you say “fundraising”? There are a wide range of responses on these questions, so it's important to make sure we're not losing something in translation.
  2. Not every donor prospect is a good one.
    Most people new to fundraising hate to think that someone out there might NOT be interested in their cause. They cling to the thought that a big donor, foundation or corporation will hear about their program and be so inspired that they throw their priorities out the window and make a huge gift! It's tough love, but let's be real. Some people just aren't that in to you.
  3. Cultivation is good but don't get stuck there.
    Yes, you should get to know your donor, find out their interests, and develop an ongoing relationship. But at some point, you need to ask. The example we give is about dating—you know that person that you know wants to ask you out on a date but never does? Don't get to that point with a donor and asking for a gift. We recommend 5-7 meaningful contacts with a prospective donor, then assess if it's time to ask. But don't forget the next point...
  4. There is no neon sign flashing over a donor's head saying, “Ask now.”
    It just takes practice to know when someone's ready to be asked for a gift. They might be kind and give you “buying signals” like, “What's the budget on that project? How many donors are you looking to secure for that? Are there naming or dedication opportunities with this project?” But more often than not, they don't make it that easy. They might not even realize that they are ready to be asked. You may have to test the waters with questions like, “Would you be interested in more information about this?”
  5. You need reasons of the head and heart to make a strong story.
    Charitable contributions are not logical. We are voluntarily giving away our hard-earned money! So the most powerful stories to encourage philanthropic support include reasons of the head—such as a low cost per student, or a challenge match, or a tax deduction—and reasons of the heart—personal stories of people who have been touched, or personal experience for the donor, or “it just feels good.” Also, depending on the donor and his or her motivations, you may need to appeal to a sense of status—how does this make me look to my peers?
  6. Fundraising is not a cookie cutter formula.
    People who think they can send the same grant proposal to a bunch of foundations or treat every donor the same will be sorely disappointed. Just like any relationship, the more you can customize your interactions to the needs of the individual donor, the more effective you will be.

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