Nonprofit Grantseeking Strategies: What Really Works?
There are a lot of scary problems in the world. Cancer… global warming… natural disasters… homelessness… domestic violence… human trafficking… malaria… undrinkable water… injustice… poverty…
Is fundraising scarier than doing what needs to be done to solve these problems?
In Judaism there is a special commandment called tikkun olam. It means to “repair the world.” We don’t raise money simply for the love of money. We do so to restore balance to a world that constantly gets out of whack. If we don’t do it, who will?
When people won’t fundraise because they’re scared, remind them. Then do these practical things to set them up for success:
· Find ways to connect them to their passion. Talk to them about why they’re involved. Is this story personal? Have they been touched by your issue? Or do you need to set them up for some site visits so they can connect more personally to your work? Passion is what will help folks overcome their fears. Coincidentally, it’s what will separate you from the crowd and inspire others to join you.
· Arm them (don’t overwhelm them) with good information. Collect your message points. Why should folks support you over any other organization that does this type of work? Give your volunteers 3-5 talking points and FAQs. Give them brief case statements about your core programs. Give them succinctfact sheets. Give them a few stories of people helped.
· Provide an inspiring ‘training’ session that ignites their passion for philanthropy. Don’t make it all about money and sales. But do give them practice talking about their passion and telling the story of your organization’s impact on the community.
· Carefully make solicitor assignments so that you create ‘wins’. Don’t assign cold calls. Don’t give folks too many calls at too low a dollar level. Plan ahead so that you make the best use of your volunteers’ valuable contacts and limited availability. It’s better to focus board members on fewer calls at much higher dollar levels. I believe in asking board members to make only 2-3 calls at any one time.
· Provide thoughtfully prepared ‘donor profiles that give folks all the information they’ll need to make a successful connection with their assignment. This means letting the solicitor know how much was given, when it was given, why it was given and how long the person assigned has been connected with your organization. And it means suggesting an appropriate ask amount. It does not mean giving them access to every single note that’s ever been written in this donor’s record in your database. Don’t rely on database queries. Take the time to look at your print-outs and annotate them. Redact any information that really is none of the solicitor’s business. Speaking of scary… it’s just plain creepy when a solicitor comes off like ‘Big Brother.’
· Make sure your volunteer has made their own passionate gift first. What a board member says is not as important as what they do. They must lead by example. (And, by the way, so should you!)
· Support your volunteers in building ongoing relationships with your supporters. Remind them their work is not about the ‘ask’ alone. They can also serve as ‘ambassadors’ and ‘advocates.’ A “AAA Board” is one that’s set up for success because we help them assume the role for which they’re prepared today; then we help them take baby steps towards the roles they will assume tomorrow. When we make appropriate assignments, fundraising becomes a lot less scary. You’ve got to learn to swim in the shallow water before you’re ready to jump off a diving board.
What would happen if your organization ceased to exist? Scary, no? The alternative to fundraising is not fundraising. What happens to all the people who rely on you then? What happens to the cure for disease that won’t be found? What happens to our planet when people don’t channel their empathy and care for one another? Now that’s scary!