With the start of a new year, we’re going back to basics - fundraising basics. In this episode, we chat with Simon Scriver, fundraising coach, consultant, and host of Simon Scriver’s Amazingly Ultimate Fundraising Superstar Podcast in Ireland. Fresh off your new year's resolutions, we’ll help you keep your fundraising promises to yourself and help your organization thrive.
Rethinking the f word
Sometimes it’s hard to get started, and often easier to put fundraising to the side. The first step is reframing how we see fundraising and our expectations around it. How often do you hear fundraising defined as a “necessary evil” or “professional begging”? There are so many concerns around feeling like you’re tricking donors for money, but this isn’t what fundraising is at all. Everyone wants to make the world a better place in some shape or form. When you move away from trying to get strangers to care about you and instead find people who have the same values as you, fundraising becomes more positive and empowering. Fundraising connects people, in and out of the organization who really care about making a difference.
start with your staff
Internal relationships are equally, if not more important than your external ones. Yes, even for fundraising. If your own team doesn’t believe in your mission and vision and the role of fundraising, it will be a lot harder to find others who are on the same page. Listening to and understanding your staff is a simple, yet an underrated way to engage your team. A cup of coffee and great listening skills can help you really understand what they do day-to-day, how they want the organization to grow and change over time, and how you can build a meaningful relationship with them. When you can relate to them personally and connect them to opportunities where they can help, it becomes easier to gather support for fundraising success.
Regardless of their position, everyone has a role in fundraising. Try putting your staff in positions where they can get quick wins like thank-you calls. The more comfortable they feel around fundraising, the more they will push themselves to get involved and understand what it’s all about.
Don’t forget about your donors
After you’ve understood what your organization looks like from the perspective of your staff, it’s important to also listen to your donors. You want to figure out what donors think about your organization because they might all have a different perspective and experience of it. Carve out some time to understand their views using donor surveys, invite them to events or information sessions, calling them or meeting them for coffee and leveraging any common trends or concerns. It may take trial and error to find out what works best for your organization, but any way to encourage donors to share stories will be a huge help in understanding them. You just need to start the conversation!
We love to have one-on-one meetings with donors to get to know them in a way that feels genuine and authentic. Listen and ask open-ended questions can help get a meaningful conversation and collect insight into what we’re doing well and what needs to be improved. Be genuinely curious about what excites them and what their values are, and ask for stories to better understand how they feel about your organization. As humans, we naturally look for points of similarity so it becomes easier to relate to them, build trust and meet them where they are.
Building relationships and trust take time and often, it can be a difficult waiting game for your ED or board who are expecting a quick return on investment. It’s important to help them understand that the money doesn’t come right away because donors won’t give without developing trust with your organization. In the very beginning, even as early as the job interview stage, if the board is asking for a set amount of money in the first month, you need to remind them that it will take time.
You might be able to get some quick wins by looking at those you already have relationships with and have come across the organization before. This could be service companies who do work for your organization, your landlord, people who visit your website, past co-workers or those related to your co-workers. These are people that already know, like and trust you, which makes them easier to talk to and easier to fundraise with. Ask yourself, “How can I move them to the next level?” and then you’ll find that fundraising becomes more about connecting and engaging.
It’s easy to stick to our own way of doing things and sometimes we need to check back in and make sure that the habits you’ve developed over time are consistent with best practices. Simon Scriver teaches us that you don’t need to compare yourself to bigger organizations who may use TV ads or celebrity endorsements. Fundraising starts with the willingness to listen and engage with others in order to build meaningful relationships.
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Resources from this Episode
Simon Scriver’s Amazingly Ultimate Fundraising Superstar Podcast: Spotify — iTunes
Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards
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Cindy Wagman spent 15 years as an in-house fundraiser at organizations large and small before founding The Good Partnership – a boutique fundraising firm focused on small nonprofits. She has worked in social justice, health, arts, and education organizations. She has overseen and executed everything from annual campaigns to multi-million dollar gifts. She became a Certified Fundraising Executive in 2009 and received her MBA from Rotman at the University of Toronto in 2013.
With more than ten years of experience in development, staff and stakeholder management, strategic thinking, partnerships, board governance, and program development, Aine McGlynn is a diversely talented, self-starter committed to finding creative solutions in unexpected places. Aine holds a PhD from U of T and has a history of academic publishing, along with her decade of nonprofit sector experience. She is a practitioner-scholar focused on how to help nonprofits build their capacity to be successful at fundraising.