A non-profit leader recently wrote, “Linda, you honestly live in a class of your own when it comes to fundraising.” Well…. thank you, my friend, but taking his comment as flattery, all I can say is I know there’s a big difference between the average fundraiser and me. It’s simple. I love my donor as my friend. The donor is a friend first, and a donor much later. If you are having a tough time fundraising the first thing to remember is that it is not lack of care. Fundraisers truly love the causes they work for, even when they feel awkward about asking people for money to support them. What they often lack is the connection and personal relationship building with donors.
My success in Las Vegas non-profit fundraising is legendary. Yes, that’s bragging, but raising hundreds of millions of dollars through face to face connections is an accomplishment not to be taken lightly. Success also came through developing one of a kind spectacular events. For example, an afternoon event staring Celine Dion raised $1 million within a single night. These kinds of fundraising successes can be yours as well, but it’s difficult to reach your objectives when you’re relying on email blasts and impersonal solicitations. Instead, your fundraising power is held in the same place that drives you to work for a cause you love: your heart.
Donors support non-profit organizations because of their mission of compassion and commitment. In most cases, people donate because they personally feel a connection to the cause – just like you! But you’ll fail to make a valuable relationship with a donor if you rely solely on non-personal communication. Get to know people in your community, don’t think of them as prospects to be segmented into giving circles. Instead, treat them like they are your best friend, the rewards will astonish you. And when confronted with a no, remember that no is just the beginning of a negotiation. The negotiation of a lasting friendship. After building meaningful relationships with that person, chances are that no, will eventually turn into a resounding yes.
1.My Donors are My Friends – Yours Can Be Too!
Stop focusing on selling a donation! Instead, focus on gaining a friend. Many of us are so focused on presenting the perfect image to our supporters that we may come across as rehearsed or inauthentic. Over the years, I’ve learned that my donors are friends who love and care about our common goals. Being real, approachable and forthright with your donors can help to foster a real sense of community and connection. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone for a conversation (yes, use that piece of equipment that never leaves your hand). It’s not just a smart piece of equipment that will tell you the time, how many miles you walked, or to take a selfie with and inform you of your next appointment. No, it’s the means to a connection to talk to a donor, to invite a donor out for coffee. It’s all about developing that genuine, human bond.
2. Asking is Giving
If you feel like you are always on the asking side of the equation, remember this one truth. You are not asking. You are giving a potential donor an opportunity to do something worthwhile. To do something that will change lives. To do something noble and good. To do something that will change the way they feel.
3. Keep an Open Mind
When your donors are your friends, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a largess you had not realized in the beginning. Not only is your life enriched by their friendship, but donors can open doors to other contributors, to volunteers, to exciting events and to many more people who can expand the network of the cause you hold dear. By being open, positive and transparent with your donors, they can often find a higher place for themselves within the organization and the cause.
Your journey in non-profit fundraising is full of love and inspiration, and with careful stewardship, human connection and creative thinking, you too can develop transformative relationships for the future of your cause. Put down that phone and get off that computer! Focus on the real connections; those are what will launch your fundraising trajectory.
Linda Smith is a fearless and tenacious non-profit fundraiser, author and motivational speaker. She is a survivor of child abuse, a philanthropist who has raised over one billion dollars for charity, and a disability advocate inspired by her son, Christopher, who was born with Down syndrome. Her incredible journey and brave heart will be detailed in her upcoming book, Unwanted.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with Linda for information regarding speaking opportunities, disability resources and Las Vegas fundraising efforts.