The one question I receive consistently in working with nonprofits is this, “Sondra, what’s the secret to fundraising?” While my ego would like to answer with some profound, deep, complex revelation, it’s really much more simple than that. The secret to fundraising is in how we treat others. It’s about respect.
Turn your clock back to 1950, a time when respect, courtesy, grammar, and poise were paramount. Sensitivity, decorum, and grace were at one point held in high regard. It was a reflection of your character to be considerate, conscientious, forthright, and restrained.
Now take that picture, and apply it to your philanthropy. How do you speak with your donors? With your board? With your team? Do you hold true to your promises, your word? Ask yourself, are you showing true gratitude for the gifts your receive? How have you shown your gratitude? Have you called the company right after receiving the gift, do you ring them every month to tell them how your work is proceeding, are you happy to make time to visit them periodically, just because they went through the trouble and consideration of supporting you? And it doesn’t need to be a company, how about a person? Think about the last gift you received. How did you respond? Did you open the envelope and send it to finance, to work out the details of posting and sending your form thank you letter? Our ancestors would have done more than that. They would have valued the generosity of that gift, put on their coat and hat (yes, they wore hats back then), and visited that donor. Even if the donor had no time for them, the action meant everything- the donor knew his gift was not only received but tremendously valued.
One of the barriers created by our technological age is the deterioration of face time. The lethal combination of too much to do, too little time, and the convenience of electronic interactions, has made us shallow and self-absorbed. We focus on getting through the actions, ticking off the to-do’s, but missing the point of the light of day. In our field, that light of day is spent 99% of the time in conversation with, appreciating, and showing our enormous respect for our donors.
Phone that donor. Respond to that email for your sponsor. Better yet, initiate that interaction before they have to – find a way to make them the center of your day, every day, and you will have discovered the secret of fundraising.