If you feel that way about fundraising you are far from alone. Without doubt it is the most unwelcome aspect of nonprofits, and barely tolerated as a necessity evil best left to others. There are more fears and fantasies about it that anything else.
To most folks, fundraising means having to make a donation and asking your friends to do it too, prospects that few welcome and even fewer want anything to do with it.
If you’re a board member or executive director, or even a director of development, who thinks that, it’s probably because you think that fundraising is all about raising money, as much as possible as soon as possible.
If so, (a) you’re wrong and (b) your nonprofit will be severely handicapped when it comes to meeting its need for contributed income with all the resulting consequences.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way; and for most nonprofits, shouldn’t be that way.
“You’re pulling my leg, right?”
Not at all.
First please understand that raising as much money as possible as soon as possible is only one type of fundraising. It is the best type but only under specific and limited conditions such as raising funds for natural disasters and mass appeals to a very large number of potential donors sharing a common interest (e.g. ASPCA and Save the Children appeals). Social media fundraising is the latest tool for mass appeals.
I call this short-term fundraising and it really is all about getting the largest possible number of gifts right away. Period.
“OK, I get that. What’s the other kind?”
The other kind of fundraising, one more suited to the needs of most nonprofits, is long-term fundraising. Here, the focus is on building relationships with donors who will support the nonprofit over a period of time.
Building donor relationships is very much like building a personal relationship: it begins small but with continuing nourishment, the relationship broadens and deepens.
In long-term fundraising, the initial approach to others isn’t, “Will you give us some money?” but “Let me tell you why I am so excited about XYZ and what it is doing. Perhaps it is something you too might find interesting or care about.”
“OK, that sounds interesting and something I could do. But what happens next?”
Techniques for what happens next with donors are topics for another time and place. Here, the purpose is to share the good news that your role in fundraising doesn’t have to be and probably shouldn’t be what you think and fear it will be. But at this point, what happens next is like what you do in building a new friendship.
“Anything else I should know?”
Yes. There is no short-cut to building and sustaining a reliable base of donors. The good news is that it works and is of enormous short- and long-term benefit to the nonprofit and, equally important, to donors who come to feel that their help is truly making a real difference.
Reliable, renewing and expanding donor bases are a ‘pot of gold’ to those nonprofits who have invested the time and effort in building, sustaining and nourishing them.
The bad news is that few nonprofits survive without them.
This commentary is copyrighted © 2015 by Ron Wormser.