Recently, I wrote to a number of non-profit leaders asking them a couple of questions about fundraising issues they have experienced, and out of the responses of about 25 global leaders, I want to answer 5 questions on fundraising for you. Hopefully this will create some conversation around the theme, but let’s engage in the topic. This post will be a little longer than normal, but we’ll try to answer each of the questions.
First, before addressing these 5 questions I want to remind you that fundraising is only successful when you have a clear vision, a clear purpose and a compelling story that produces impact. We talked about this in a RECENT BLOG on “messaging”. Start with this first!
Now, let’s address these questions that came from real leaders:
Question #1) How can I raise funds when I have this incredible fear of rejection?
This question comes directly to our personal confidence and it’s tied to our vision and call. There is rejection in everything. Often we take things personally that we can’t control. In fundraising, our job is to share clearly the opportunity, and “invite” people to come with you. We invite people all the time to parties, events, meals & coffee. Sometimes people say yes, sometimes they can’t. It’s the same in fundraising. Invite them, and realize that when they say no, it’s not because they don’t believe in what we believe in. It just means that they may be doing something else right now that is really important to them. I remember presenting a huge project one time to a foundation, and after my great pitch they said, “No. What else do you have?” I was crushed. They didn’t buy into my vision. The reality is that they eventually got involved in something I was doing that was right in line with their vision, and we partnered together for over 10 years with them making a huge investment in my vision.
Invite people and realize that everyone needs to follow what it is they feel God is leading them to.
Question #2) How can I dedicate the time needed to do fundraising?
We often say that fundraising is important, but it’s the thing we procrastinate with, the thing we ignore, the thing we put off. I don’t know if it’s because we don’t like the pressure or not, but it’s always easy to find other things to do. The reality is this: If we don’t do the work of fundraising, we won’t be able to do the things that we really need to accomplish. This comes to priorities. Figure out what’s most important. We need to make time for the most important because it drives everything else we do. If you are struggling with this issue, look at your areas of time management and priorities. Fundraising will never happen “when you have time”. You have to make the time and take the time to put into it. Quit putting it off!
Question #3) How can I raise funds when I’m out of new contacts to present to?
In fundraising, you start with those closest to you: family, friends, work, church. Start there because these are the people who love you, that believe in you, and they will want to be a part of encouraging you in what you’re doing. Don’t force them or try to manipulate them. “Invite them”. When you run through these contacts, look at “Networking Groups” that rally around some of the things you’re connecting to. These might be community service organizations or businessmen’s/women’s networks. Get out in the community and find out what’s going on and connect. Don’t come in with an ask. Come in and join the community, and as you build relationships, you’ll be able to share your vision. Using technology, look at family or corporate foundations that serve the demographic you’re working towards or look at ways to build strategic partnerships that will help with costs by bringing other organizations alongside you. We’ve always found that the more people we can expose to opportunities, the better. We invest heavily in vision trips, short-term trips and internships which bring new people to see projects regularly. These take time, but it’s great time because it’s building long-term relationships.
Question #4) How can I raise funds when I live so far away?
Distance does create challenges, but with technology today the world is much smaller. Here are a couple of ideas: 1) Build a list of people who want to know what you’re doing. Write to them regularly, not just when you need something. Share the story, share the pictures, keep them updated. Ask people if they’d like to be on your list. 2) Use technology creatively from Facebook to Skype to Twitter and Instagram to Websites and YouTube. Don’t think that everyone will use all of them. People have preferences. You need to figure out what works best for you and use it. Don’t overpower people with too much information. They’ll tune you out. 3) Be consistent. Share the story and impact regularly and then invite people to get involved, then keep telling them how their investment is helping. 4) Sometimes the cost of a plane ticket is worth it. There are some conversations that need to take place in person. Learn to identify these and plan for them.
Question #5) What’s the best way to build relationships that lead to fundraising success?
This is simple: You’re building relationships, you’re not selling a product. Invest in the relationship and the conversation. Share what you’re doing and invite people to get involved, but if they choose not to, continue with the relationship. People are wary of relationships that are based on money or involvement. Be a true friend. Don’t determine your relationship based on the outcome of your proposal. It takes time to build a solid relationship, so you need to take the time and make the time for this to happen. These relationships over time will become very important to you, not just for what they might bring to your vision, but for what they will bring to your life. Make people a priority!
We could answer these questions much deeper, but let’s leave it at this.
Please comment on any of these and add your suggestions and ideas.
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