Are You Ready for Grassroots Fundraising?
Mistakes are more public and require more attention
Several years ago, I mailed a direct-mail letter for a national organization to raise money for women in Mozambique who had lost their husbands in the civil war. Unfortunately, our proofreading failed, and these women were referred to as "war windows" (as opposed to widows) in one paragraph. We shrugged it off, a few donors called to chide us, and we raised money for the project.
In a grassroots organization, everyone knows you — and everyone else — so mistakes get a much broader audience. You don't need social media to broadcast your errors; you have the local hair salon, diner, house of worship and grocery store. This makes responding to mistakes, no matter how minor, something you have to do quickly and thoroughly. If someone feels slighted in the least, it will come back to haunt you. So swallow your pride, be genuinely apologetic, and make every effort to make amends considered appropriate by that person (not just you).
Don't ask for an opinion unless you plan to do something with it
We often send surveys or ask potential major donors for their opinions to help increase donor involvement. Much of the time, this information is interesting — but it might not alter anything we do. In a grassroots organization, donors are more likely to expect you to take their advice and make changes as a result. There is a much greater sense of connection as they see you regularly, may visit your programs and possibly feel integral to your success. If you ask for an opinion, be ready to incorporate it — or at least explain why you didn't after giving it fair consideration. Otherwise, you run the risk of seeming arrogant or patronizing — or even "ignorant" because (they believe) you don't recognize good advice when you hear it.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.