Fundraising: It's All About 'I' (Integrity, That Is)
A friend recently commented that as a fundraiser, you are first and foremost selling integrity. If donors feel that you — or your organization — lack integrity, they will likely look elsewhere to donate.
For the most part, we like to think of ourselves as people of integrity. Since this is an article about fundraising, I won't get into the ethical issues of "white" lies and gray areas. Rather, following are a few ways to make sure you always approach your donors with the tools to present an honest assessment of what they can accomplish with their gifts.
Check your attitude
Believing in your organization and in what it accomplishes is essential. If you are negative about your leadership, your program accomplishments or your fundraising methods, that affects your conversation with a donor.
Avoiding these negativisms means you need to invest the time to understand. Why do your program staffers do what they do? Is that best practice, and if so, why? Take the time to see your programs in action, and get to know some of the people who benefit from them. What excites you? If your answer is "nothing," you have a real challenge exciting donors to support the work. Enthusiasm is contagious — but so is negativism.
Also, listen to your leadership. What are the visions for the future? Why is he or she investing years of life into this organization? Does your boss see an exciting future ahead or simply maintenance? Is there honest discussion about challenges and creative thinking about addressing them? We all want to be on the winning team, and having confidence in leadership is essential to perform at our best.
Finally, are you proud of your organization's fundraising? If you are the sole or main fundraiser, you may have your imprint on everything. But if you are part of a larger team, many things can happen that you don't see or have any influence over. Remembering that you are not the target audience, do you feel good about being associated with those fundraising efforts? If you don't understand why something is the way it is, ask questions. There are best practices that can significantly improve net income. This doesn't mean best practices supercede honestly presenting the facts, but dismissing (or feeling ashamed about) fundraising programs without investing the time to understand them can destroy your attitude.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.