What makes a fundraiser?
A few weeks ago a friend who was dreaming about the future automatically disqualified what might be a really great opportunity because it involved fundraising….I was honestly shocked that some one would not consider pursuing a life dream because of that! For me, fundraising has always been a normal part of my adult life. I worked for an organization that required me to raise my own salary for 11 years, I “fell” into major donor work with that organization and now I’ve gotten involved in several organizations who I am either raising funds for or helping create fundraising strategies.
We often think that a fundraiser is the person who is hired by an organization to run complicated end of the year campaigns or figure out formulas for direct mail ROIs. Most people want to know the steps to do in order to be able to raise money, but I’ve observed that the first step is to actually take a good assessment of yourself.
1. Embrace the fact that you are a fundraiser.
If you are going to start a non-profit OR if you are an employee of a non-profit you need to embrace the fact that you are a fundraiser. This is where most people fall short. They think of fundraising as something that one person on the team does OR something they do when they have the time. Every person in your organization is a fundraiser all the time. At the most base level, the way they interact with anyone may come back to your organization’s funding. For those who are leading the organization – fundraising isn’t something you do just so you can then do the work – fundraising has to be a part of your job. You probably interact with potential donors and opportunities multiple times a day and don’t even realize it. Everyone in the company has to embrace fundraising.
2. Defeat Negative Self Talk
Do you believe in yourself? What’s holding you back from picking up the phone and making those calls? It might be fear of rejection, or maybe you don’t want to risk upsetting a friend, or you don’t want to bother some one….maybe you think they don’t have enough to give or they already give to so many other things. Whatever that thing is, you’ve got to fight that internal battle and choose to believe in yourself and in your project enough to move forward. It’s easy to create a great fundraising plan – the hard part is putting yourself out there for “the ask”.
3. Have a clear and compelling vision.
Can you tell people what you do and do they get excited about it? People want to be a part of things that will change the world and often the way they are involved in those projects is through their financial giving but with so many organizations out there, you have to know where you’re going and why you believe people should join you. You should be able to articulate your vision in a dozen different contexts. If I become part of your organization through my giving, how will I help change the world? And on a side note, yes, their money may go to the most mundane thing like buying a printer cartridge but all of the little mundane things are what bring a vision to reality.
4. And last, be a person of character.
Manage your organization with integrity. To the best of your ability, complete the projects you say you’re going to do. Treat your staff with respect and put time and effort into their professional development. Go the extra mile to be above board when it comes to your finances.
The two biggest things that major donors would always give me as the tipping points for funding a project were related to the leader – his or her character and vision. If you’re missing one of these, you’ll get some funding to come in but donors are becoming more and more savvy. Living with courage, vision, and integrity are keys to being a good fundraiser.