Philanthropy, Not Fundraising
I’m about to reveal my Old MacDonald’s Theory of the qualities of outstanding fundraisers (you know how they say “the farmer is *out standing* in his field”)? Ahem. Well… the outstanding farmer is surrounded by a chorus of E-I-E-I-Os. The outstanding fundraiser is similar in many ways. S/he sings a similar tune and also works in a nurturing, productive space that enables cultivation and growth.
And that’s why I developed my E-I-E-I-O paradigm. Forget about all the nasty business of “it’s a jungle out there.” No, YOU (the fundraiser) work on a farm.
People often think of ‘fundraising’ as a dirty word. It’s the same thing with ‘sales’ (as opposed to farming, which is dirty, but in a good clean way rather than in the manner of those sleazy, door-to-door money-grubbers). With those folks, salespeople and fundraisers, it’s all about caveat emptor. Or so goes the common wisdom. But you and I know that good fundraisers – and good sales people – are generally not selling snake oil. If they have integrity (and let’s stipulate that we’re only talking about YOU, the upright, honorable person) they’re offering something of value.
What could be more clean and honest than trying to repair the world? And if that’s what you’re trying to do, then it helps to understand you’re in sales. If you haven’t yet read Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human,” I highly recommend it. His point is that we’re all in sales now. We’re continually persuading, negotiating and pitching — even if we’re just trying to get our kids out the door to school or our co-workers to follow through with a task. In fact, a study Pink commissioned showed that people today spend 40% of their work time selling something! Once you understand you’re in sales, it helps to be good at it. So…
Let’s review what makes a good salesperson and fundraiser.
E- I- E -I- O
A good fundraiser must embody all of these qualities:
E = Ethics
Donor trust is of paramount importance. Ethical behavior must shine from a fundraiser in order to counteract the perception that fundraisers are little more than sleazy salespeople. To earn and keep trust, good fundraisers are donor-centered and take care to do no harm. They are always thinking of how to be of service to their donors. They believe in the value of their organization’s mission (much like a good salesperson believes in the value of their product). See the Association of Fundraising Professionals Guidelines for Code of Ethics for guidance.
I = Intelligence
I confess to a bias towards intelligence. I can teach an intelligent person to be an effective, focused fundraiser. No amount of experience can substitute for this basic criterion. Effective fundraisers do much, much more than simply ask for money. They gather intelligence, plan and measure with intelligence and evaluate intelligently. They are also emotionally intelligent, becoming attuned to the perspective of their constituents and focusing on what is meaningful to them (‘attunement’ happens to also be one of Daniel Pink’s traits for effective salespeople). They not only do things the right way; they do the right things.
E = Exuberance
A fundraiser needs to be a good coach and cheerleader who leads others – board members, volunteers, the executive director and other staff – to success. Success in fundraising means instilling a culture of philanthropy organization-wide; not being a one person band. So, yes, exuberance is key. I don’t mean this in the sense of perky rah-rah, but in the sense of being optimistic and taking initiative. An optimist is future-oriented and tries to do things that haven’t been done before. They see potential, don’t rest on their laurels and aren’t satisfied with the status quo. They understand that people invest in hope, and offer others the opportunity to make a real difference. They are the opposite of passive. They have an uncanny ability to see a problem and take action to address it. This aligns with a quality of effective salespeople – what Daniel Pink calls ‘buoyancy – the combination of a gritty spirit and a sunny outlook.’ It’s a quality that enables folks to survive repeated rejections – understanding that these rebuffs are temporary, contained and due to external factors.
I = Inspiration
Inspiration is the sine qua non of an effective fundraiser. They must be inspired and also inspire others. This begins inside the organization with leadership and other staff. They must be innovative and strategic in channeling inspiration into appropriate action (e.g., determining what prospect, donor, event or project could use the support of the staff or board member). They must let donors know they’re appreciated, they’re making a difference and their continued involvement will help even more. Do what you must to find inspiration in your work. Connect with your passions if you will inspire others to make passionate investments in your work. Then combine your inspiration with your emotional intelligence and present your proposition to others in a compelling and winning way. Create a movement people want to join.
O = Organization
If you don’t have a plan, don’t work according to plan, don’t monitor your progress towards goals and don’t measure your results then, it’s almost impossible to be effective. If you don’t use timelines, don’t keep meticulous records and use spreadsheets, don’t adhere to budgets and don’t manage your time, then it’s almost impossible to be efficient. A good fundraiser must be both.
Many organizations are looking for good fundraisers in all the wrong places. A good fundraiser can be difficult to find, and not everyone will have a track record. That’s okay, provided you hire someone who embodies the E-I-E-I-O traits, and if you then offer them someone who can train, mentor and coach them. [In fact, it’s a good idea to do this even with folks who have a track record as, all too often, folks who’ve been in the business have not worked in an environment that taught them best practices; there are way too many instances of ‘the blind leading the blind’ – inexperienced development staff working for clueless executive directors and/or boards. Just because someone put in their time does not mean they know how to be effective, efficient or successful].
Outstanding fundraising requires ethics, intelligence, exuberance, inspiration and organization. Find these traits; then offer a supportive learning environment that embraces a culture of philanthropy. You’ll see success!
Do you have any traits to add to this list? This is the 11th post in the Philanthropy, Not Fundraising series — exploring the ways in which the former is transformational and donor-centric while the latter is merely transactional. Let me know what you think!
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