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While recently leading a two-day training for some non-profit leaders I was struck, as I often am, by how many of the questions and concerns really grew out of people’s beliefs about money. We grappled with plenty of questions about the mechanics of fundraising, of course, but much of the conversation centered on donors’, volunteers’, board members’ and staffs’ relationship to and attitudes about money.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“There is too much competition in our community, we can’t raise money when people are being asked for so many things.”
“Our board won’t ask for money. They don’t want to pressure their friends.”
“Our board is not wealthy so they can’t help with fundraising.”
I have seen organizations with great potential fail to attract donors because the board and staff succumbed to this kind of “group think.” These commonly held beliefs often become an insurmountable barrier rather than a challenge to overcome. When a group lets itself be held hostage by one or more of these beliefs fundraising WILL stall.
So how do we create the shift needed to get fundraising back on track? I encourage you to be the loudest voice in the room, challenge these beliefs and offer real solutions! Here are some tips and tools to empower YOU to lead a change, turning a “barrier” to an “opportunity”:
We face too much competition. This phrase is usually a symptom of something deeper – a belief that only a finite amount of money is available and a fear that the organization is not strong enough to get its share.
SOLUTION: Help your team realize that there is PLENTY of money available for all the great causes in your community, INCLUDING YOURS!
TRY THIS: Look at all the success other organizations are having in your area. This is not evidence that they are “vacuuming up” all the money – it is evidence that people in your community will give more!
Our board doesn’t want to pressure their friends. Well, of course not! None of us does. AND it is a bad idea! This belief arises from a misunderstanding about the nature of fundraising.
SOLUTION: Help your board understand that is it NEVER our job to talk someone into doing something they don’t want to do. It is our job to be Match Makers. We help create the match between a potential donor and a cause that aligns with their values. We INVITE people to help, we don’t “put the squeeze on them” so they will make a gift.
TRY THIS: Ask your board members to jot down one or two things they get out of being on your board. Then ask them to recall how they got introduced to you in the first place. Remind them that if someone had not been brave enough to introduce them, they wouldn’t be here now! That’s all we are asking them to do…invite someone to get to know the organization and decide for themselves if it is a good fit.
Our board members are not all wealthy so they can’t help. For organizations that view their board primarily as an ATM, this statement is probably true. But diverse boards, including boards with SOCIO-ECONOMIC diversity, can be highly successful at fundraising.
SOLUTION: First, give up on the idea that your board should be there just to give money. (Yes, they all need to make a meaningful gift, but that is not ALL) You need a diverse board to assure a range of perspectives, to help you connect with various industries, sectors and networks, to assure you have the appropriate balance of skills to help you manage the organization at the highest, strategic levels.
TRY THIS: Help each board member each find a role in the fundraising cycle that works for them. EVERYONE can help thank donors. EVERYONE can serve as an advocate for the organization by talking it up in their own networks. EVERYONE can help think through who should be invited to the next outreach event. EVERYONE can help host a tour of the organization for potential donors, even if they don’t know them.
So continue to be the loudest voice in the room; challenging those beliefs that are harmful to your organization’s success, and helping those that are stuck find the opportunities in shifting their beliefs as well.