Fundraising is a lot like yoga. If it hurts, you are probably doing it wrong.
Ask most people if they enjoy asking others for money and you will get a very firm “no!” Not surprisingly, this wide-spread disdain (or at least strong discomfort) for soliciting much-needed financial support is a real issue for many not-for-profits.
Our Donor By Design team spent some time reflecting on this problem and came to a conclusion: most people misunderstand the “ASK” as a single, stressful, all or nothing, fraught with possible rejection, taboo, intrusive, quid pro quo moment in time. Simply put, people don’t like making the ASK because it’s painful.
Successful fundraising is a thoughtful and prescriptive process, not simply a moment in time. Let’s break it down into its three key components: Connection – Education – Invitation.
Successful fundraising is based on relationships. Once you have identified a potential donor you must find the person or group of people who can open the door. These people to can bridge the divide between the prospect and your cause. This is often a sweet spot for your board, volunteers and staff.
Once you have made the connection, your goal is education, and that education goes both ways. Take the time to learn about the prospect and what is important to them. Remember: People don’t give money because they have money, they give because they care about something. Once you understand their areas of interest or concern, take the time to educate them on how your organization's mission aligns with their interests. Enlist others to help share your story and don’t forget, show and tell works!
Now that you have made a meaningful connection and taken the time to align your mission with their passions, it’s time for the invitation. Who should make the ask? Base it on who connected you, what the prospect cares about, what you have learned during the “cultivation” process, what you are asking the prospect to support and how much you are asking for.
Effective fund raising takes time, patience, passion and heart. While everyone may not be comfortable with the invitation for support (the ask), most people are willing and able to make connections and share their passions for a worthwhile cause. In effective fundraising, there is a role for everyone.
Remember, if it hurts, you are probably doing it wrong!