So, you’re new on the job. The expectation is that you will raise a lot of money for your nonprofit – and fast. What do you do first?
Ken Burnett, intrepid Scotsman, fundraiser par excellence and author of The Zen of Fundraising, Relationship Fundraising and other key fundraising tomes outlined 15 Things I Would Do If I Were The New Head of Donor Development on the SOFII (Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration) website, an online fundraising resource site he helped establish.
Here are the first 8 suggestions with my comments in italics -- but I highly recommend visiting SOFII and reading the details of all 15. They are really terrific.
1. I’d aspire to be the most learned fundraiser of my generation.
The fundraising community is blessed to have at its disposal scores of superb educational resources. Few professions are populated with individuals so willing to share as generously of their knowledge. Blogs, podcasts, seminars, books, publications, and very lively and active professional associations – all result in a plethora of advice and inspiration.
2. I’d teach all my fundraising colleagues to make the 90-degree shift and to aspire to be 15 minutes ahead.
Put yourself in the donor’s shoes. There is no greater folly or act of hubris than to think that donors should give to your non-profit simply because you have told them they should. Truly, our job is to determine what is important to our donors and how philanthropy fits with their values and aspirations. Then we can match our mission with their priorities.
3. I’d develop a culture of appropriate but high quality donor service in our organization, top to bottom.
As Ken Burnett states, “I’d make sure we are always a pleasure to do business with.” Think about your organization’s customer relationship management. Can you honestly state that every donor “touch point” is exceptional -- or even acceptable?
4. I’d be very choosy.
Focus your efforts on areas with the potential for the greatest return on investment. Is it really the multi-millionaire who was a guest of one of your donors at a recent gala and is therefore in your database? Or is it perhaps the “less sexy”, long-time supporter who has been a modest but consistent donor for 25 years?
5. I’d cut out all short-term thinking, including all hard-sell activities.
If you have determined what the donor’s values and aspirations are, made a connection between your mission and these values, and provided a long-range strategic path that resonates with them– you don’t have to “hard sell”.
6. I’d switch our organization’s contact paradigm from “marketing” to “communication”.
It’s the difference between being sold or being engaged. Resist the temptation to be hoodwinked into thinking that slick graphics, uber-clever concepts, and double entendre laden copy presented to you as edgy marketing is good communication, or more importantly – good fundraising.
7. I’d make sure we only send effective, imaginative communications.
Given the comments above, will your fundraising communication be dull? I’ll bet your non-profit’s mission isn’t dull! Concentrate on clearly communicating what you do that is important and special. Do it in a compelling and authentic way. Being authentic is really a lot harder than being clever. And it is far more effective!
8. I’d make ours a listening and hearing organization.
Back in the donor’s shoes again. Talk to them. Survey them. Listen to them. Let them know you have heard them. Then act upon what you have learned.
Next, I’ll share the last seven suggestions from Ken Burnett with my comments.