This month, in Fundraisers' Monthly, we're getting really real.
We're talking about difficult donors. (booooo!)
Our awesome member, Alex, said:
"Every fundraising training/book/etc. seems to operate on the assumption that all donors are warm, trusting, altruistic teddy bears that are full of love and sunshine."
It's true. There is a lot of sunshine, roses and sickeningly sweet talk in fundraising.
Nancy and I are guilty of this, too. We like to say - when you're generous, you can't be mean - when you're giving, you can't be angry. But that's just not always true.
Sometimes, people - even generous people who are giving away their hard-earned money for a damn good cause - are just plain rude.
And fundraising is 1000% percent a people business, so, here it is, the really real truth about fundraising:
You will absolutely meet and have to deal with a few jerks. (I'm sorry for this and I'm sending you an e-hug right now.)
More than a few people will hang up on you (ah, the joys of cold...
What's the one thing you wish you'd known when you started fundraising?
Share your answer in the comments below?!
We're asking you. Whether you're a fundraiser, executive director, board member or volunteer, what advice, secret, tool or tip do you wish you'd had earlier?
Share you answers here on the Generous Change blog and, together, we can help take the fear out of fundraising!
What's my one thing?
It's about the money.
That sounds obvious, right? But honestly, I didn't quite get it early on.
I tend toward the, shall we say, overly optimistic. When I first started fundraising, if someone clearly had wealth and said they loved my org, I assumed that, eventually - once I'd built the fabled "relationship" and "engaged" them - they would give.
Not so much.
I'd visit these delightful folks three, four, sometimes five times before realizing that:
What's the one thing you wish you would've known when you started fundraising?
Share your answer in the comments below?!
We're asking you. Whether you're a fundraiser, nonprofit executive director, board member or volunteer - what advice, secret, tool or tip do you wish you'd had earlier?
Share your answers here on the Generous Change blog, and, together, we can help take the fear out of fundraising.
What's my one thing?
Peoples is peoples.
This awesome quote from The Muppets Take Manhattan still helps me to be a better fundraiser. Yes, I'm serious. The Muppets have helped me raise money. There's inspiration everywhere! Even from way back in 1984.
When I started in fundraising (and honestly, for the first few years), I lacked confidence. I was completely intimidated by the strangers I was meeting. Honestly, I couldn't sleep the night before donor visits because of these thoughts:
Today, we attack overwhelm, analysis paralysis, and general busy-ness. There is a better way to live your work day - and it's actually easier!
Have you ever had days when you're busy every minute, going as fast as you can, but then wonder over that well-deserved adult beverage, "What did I actually get done today?"
We have a simple antidote. It works like magic and will supercharge your career.
Before you go home every night: reach out to three new prospective donors. For extra credit, make meaningful contact with three existing prospects or donors.
You can do this in one hour! And if you do, you will contact a stunning 750 new prospects every year - likely adding 30 valuable new donors to your portfolio.
Plus, you will make everyone already in your portfolio feel seen, heard, valued.
And you will happily reside in the top tier of fundraiser productivity.
Not bad for an hour's work, right?
Which brings us to the critical point: block this hour on your calendar...
One of our awesome members, Alex, emailed us after joining Fundraisers' Monthly and told us (after watching our "FU" video) she immediately subscribed.
Alex said, "...that is the moment I knew for sure the two of you would be able to give me direct and upbeat guidance instead of the same regurgitated vanilla advice..."
Hearing this from Alex made us ridiculously happy (seriously, Nancy and I were jumping up and down as we were reading her email).
It also made me think about all of the "regurgitated vanilla advice" there is out there.
I love fundraising, so this is not about bashing our industry, but who says we are supposed to be stiff, formulaic, jargony and...well...vanilla?
P.S. I love vanilla - shakes, cake, frosting - so this is also not about bashing vanilla.
Think about how much jargon we use in fundraising:
As I type, my dog, Millie, has her head in my lap.
She nudges my elbow every few seconds to get a few pets and looks up at me, ready at any second to GO OUTSIDE!
Everyone believes their dog is the smartest and cutest. I'm no different.
Millie (and every awesome dog) can teach us a thing or two about raising money, so we're launching a new blog series, Lessons from Millie.
LESSON 1: From Energy to Grit
Millie is an Energizer Bunny.
She's ready, at a moment's notice, to run - whether it's for work (chasing birds) or play (chasing birds).
Raising money requires Millie-sized energy!
Think about all of the verbs in your job:
Whew! I'm exhausted from typing this list and I know you could add at least 10 more things to it....
Ohhh, that feeling. Sweaty palms, beating heart, shortish breath (if you're me, bad coffee breath, searching for a mint but all you find is gum that you pop in and chew like it's an Olympic event)...
It's time to make the big ask and you're nervous. Will they be offended? Will they say no? Are you asking too soon, for too much?
It doesn't have to be this way! We've got a formula to make big asks easy, fun, and satisfying for your and your donors.
It's as simple as this: TAP, and then Pre-Ask.
Timing, Amount and Purpose come first - and that's easy cuz you're using our TAP worksheet for every visit right? Each time you meet with your donor, you discover at least one of those elements and confirm it with your donor:
You know that thing that happens to you when you know it's time to bring up money in a donor conversation? That moment when you know you have to say it or you'll miss your chance or chicken out?
Your heart races, your face gets hot and you start to do that zoning in thing where all you hear is what’s in your head.
You are not alone!
After more than a decade of asking for money, this still happens to me.
It also happens to Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, an amazing organization that has built 400 schools in Guatemala, Ghana and Laos and given tens of thousands of kids access to education.
In Adam’s fantastic book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, he has an entire chapter dedicated to his fear of fundraising. It’s called Vulnerability is Vital.
Adam describes his first ask of a six-figure commitment from a potential donor. He writes, “My face was still but my chest was pounding.”
Has this ever happened to you? You drive all over two states for two days, race from your last donor meeting to the airport just in time for your 7:30 pm flight, eat no dinner, then sit on the runway for an hour, totally missing your connection. You land in an airport “just” five hours from home…after 10 pm.
And then…instead of staying at the airport and taking the luxuriously late morning flight, you rent a car, pass many hotels where people are happily sleeping, pick up your car at the “home” airport at 2:38 am, and finally pull bleary-eyed into your garage at 4 am?
We did this last Thursday! And just to be clear, I would have been quite happy to stay at the St. Louis airport and fly home mid-day.
But my very awesome colleague had a lunch-time solicitation with the dean, a presentation to her advisory board, and a brief cameo at the Dean’s Club dinner (which the Chancellor and Provost were slated to attend). She...
Are you? Going to ask today? It not, what do you need to learn to get there?
One of three things, friends: timing, amount, purpose. Ideally in that order.
Don’t get us wrong! Of course you want to know your donor. Rapport matters, connection matters, respect matters – a lot.
We’re not suggesting you should make an ask upon first meeting (though honestly, sometimes you should!).
But you absolutely should, must – please, we are begging you – be asking yourself, before every meeting, “Am I going to ask...