Your Board and Fundraising

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 | 1 comment

Next week I will be facilitating a 3-hour Board Training workshop in Washington DC. Our focus is on the board’s role in fundraising and how each unique member can be effective in helping with a nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts.

As I’ve prepared for the training, it’s become very apparent to me that many board members don’t see themselves as fundraisers. Even more concerning, they don’t want to be involved in fundraising.

There are differing views on a board member’s role in fundraising for a nonprofit organization, to be sure. But to me, it seems like a no-brainer. Of COURSE they should be involved.

Your nonprofit board is not staff. They are not paid representatives of your organization (typically), but they are a critical part of your organization’s team. They have signed on as ambassadors by agreeing to serve on your board. They have often signed agreements to donate hours, money, resources. If nothing else, they have allowed you to attach their name to your organization. They are important. They are influential. They are key players…and not just in policymaking decision, but in fundraising.

Not every board member is able to donate funds to an organization, although all should be asked. But every board member can help with fundraising in many ways, including the following:

  1. Recommend your organization to their friends and colleagues
  2. Identify their personal and professional circle of influence and recommend potential donors based on their knowledge of the person or organization
  3. Sit on your organization’s development committee
  4. Attend your organization’s events and participate in the storytelling
  5. Attend civic and community events and share your organization’s story
  6. Join the CEO in potential donor visits
  7. And the list goes on….
Signing on as a board member for a nonprofit organization is more than just adding a name to the letterhead, it’s a commitment based on passion for your mission and confidence in your efforts and leadership. It’s not a surprise that many board members don’t think of themselves as fundraisers, not many do. It’s not a role many seek after. But with training and a little information, there is rarely a better fundraiser than a motivated board member. It’s worth the effort.
We can’t expect board members to know how to fundraise, or to even understand their role in fundraising, without providing them some basic training and information. It should be part of every organization’s annual planning retreat.
If you are a board member, you are a fundraiser. You may never have to ASK, but you will always be carrying the message.
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4 Suggestions to Help You Be More Friendly

Posted by on Aug 10, 2013 | 0 comments

Do you remember the saccharin-sweet person you couldn’t stand to be around? Do you remember the always-a-downer person who never was invited to anything? Are you either of these two? If you are, or if you have someone on your staff who is,  take a deep breath and start to make a plan for change, because saccharin-sweet and always-a-downer personalities can take down an organization.


Donors are looking for authentic. They want passion and enthusiasm. They want to feel good about what they are doing. How we approach them can make the difference between a “yes” or a “no”.  Our demeanor can make or break a donor relationship.

Friendly is defined as having goodwill. Friendly is not hostile.  Friendly is warm and comforting.

Are you friendly when you meet with donors? Or do your nerves take over and cause the meeting to feel tense (the opposite of warm and comforting)? There are four clues to improve your “friendly” factor, they are:

  1. SOUND FRIENDLY: Ease your voice: Don’t talk too fast or too loud. Practice the “prepared” part of an expected conversation before the meeting.
  2. APPEAR FRIENDLY: Sit or stand comfortably. Don’t fidget. Don’t furrow your brow. Don’t hunch and cross your arms. Relax your shoulders. Let your hands rest easily, don’t clench them together (or fiddle your thumbs!).
  3. SMILE FRIENDLY! Nothing says “friendly” more than a smile. (Don’t forget to brush your teeth and do a quick rearview mirror check for a clump of pepper or green flake, so you can smile confidently in the meeting – there’s nothing worse than wondering if you have something in your teeth). A genuine smile can rock the world.
  4. LOOK FRIENDLY: Make eye contact. Don’t look down and up and all around. Look at the person you’re talking to. This makes you approachable and also shows that you are interested in them.
To borrow something from my mother: Friendly is as friendly does. For a nonprofit fundraiser, friendly begins with a phone call or first time meeting and continues through follow up notes, thank you letters, requests for input, personal meetings and really never ends. Donors may irritate or disappoint, but it’s their money that’s funding your projects. Being friendly, even if we’re disappointed, stressed, or discouraged, is the least we can do to say thank you.
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Feel With Your Heart

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 | 0 comments

Just wanting to share one of my all-time favorite quotes from Helen Keller:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

Building a culture of philanthropy in your business or organization is a team-building effort that not only fosters a feel-good work environment but improves your bottom line.

Never doubt the power of philanthropy, which defined is the love of mankind.

Helen had it right.

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Posted by on Jun 26, 2013 | 0 comments

Well? What’s your response to that?

OK, let’s do this. Pretend I am your donor. You’ve just nailed your personal appeal to me relating concisely and completely your organization’s efforts, your achievements, your goals, and your needs.

You’ve WOW’d me with data showing the expected long range effect of your work. It’s obvious that you are changing lives for the better. And now you look to me; I know you are about to ask me something in an attempt to engage me in your efforts. But all that’s going through my mind is W.I.I.F.M?

What’s in it for me? W.I.I.F.M? What’s in it for me? You’ve talked about you, and about your organization, but what about lil ol’ me? You know, the one with the checkbook….me, your donor?

Talking face-to-face with potential donors can be challenging, but if we remember the simple rule of conversation, which is to ask questions of the other person and NOT talk solely about ourselves, it’s really fairly simple. Imagine attending a party and as you meet new people you start talking about yourself, nothing else (yes, we all know someone who does this – obnoxious, isn’t it?).

It’s not all that much different when you’re talking to your donors, making an appeal, or introducing a campaign…sure, you have to give them the information they will need to make a decision on their involvement, but why not frame your presentation from their viewpoint? Tell them what their involvement will do, who it will affect, how it will make a difference and change lives…remember, this is really about them, it’s not about you.

Tell a compelling story correctly, let them know what’s in it for them, and ask concisely.

You can do this…without being obnoxious!

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But the Greatest of These is Charity

Posted by on Mar 23, 2013 | 0 comments

It’s long been recognized that kindness and charity toward others are noble efforts. As fundraisers, we know this because we’ve seen it (“it” being charity-in-action); we’ve lived it, we’ve asked for it, we’ve received it, we’ve been grateful for it, and we’ve leveraged it to get the most bang from a buck – literally. We live and breathe charity. We do fundraising, and we do it well.

Fundraising is a noble effort when approached honestly, conducted ethically, and performed responsibly. It is a profession worthy of recognition and respect, if not from the world, than at least from those who claim it as their own.

Fundraising. It’s what we do, you and me, every day of our lives. And yet, there are many who think of fundraising as “something they could NEVER do!” and there are others who are aching to leave the profession because “asking for money makes me feel like I’m begging.” To these folks I would simply offer  “you don’t get it.”

And they don’t, at least it appears they don’t based on their aversion to the act of fundraising (which they think of as simply asking people for money). And I get that, I really do. Fundraising, as I’ve said many times, is not something most of us woke up as a young child and told our Mom we wanted to do when we grew up.

Just imagine this: Bobby: “I want to be a fireman!” Amy: “I want to be a nurse!” Jean: “I want to be a fundraiser!”……………. I can assure you, this did not happen.

But a fundraiser I am, and a proud one at that. And I am so because of the inspirational organizations I’ve had the pleasure to work with and the creatively generous donors and partners I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the course of my several decade career, resulting in good works, charitable acts, and  literally thousands of friends and colleagues throughout the world.

To me, fundraising is the act of graciously, yet strategically, enabling charitable giving. It’s the method within the madness. It’s a philanthropic tool that connects Good Samaritans to those who need support.

Thank God for those who are willing to share, to support, to give.

And thank God for those who are willing to Ask. I am honored to rub shoulders with those brave souls who, like me, “get it”.

We get it. We believe and know that charity never fails. It never has. It never will.

Thank God.

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