Fundraising: It's All About 'I' (Integrity, That Is)
Know your facts
Did you review your organization's 990 last year? There's a chance the donor you are speaking with has, and you need to be at least as informed as he or she is. Plus, a 990 (the form nonprofits file annually with the IRS) gives a great deal of information about your organization. Some of it may surprise you, and some may even concern you — but if you haven't read it, you won't be prepared if a donor raises a question or an objection based on what he or she has read or even just assumes.
Knowing your organization's overhead is essential. This can be calculated from the 990 (add total management and general expense + total fundraising expense, and divide that sum by your total revenue). If it seems high, do some fact-checking. What is the overhead of your competitors? Is there a reason for a higher overhead (i.e., your organization was paying down a mortgage or launching a new program)? Is your overhead reasonable considering mitigating factors that you need to consider? Being able to address a donor's concerns means always being prepared, so make sure you understand this important measurement.
You also need to take the time to read the materials that go to your donors. This includes newsletters, direct-mail appeals, the annual report, e-appeals and e-newsletters, and anything else that is sent out. It is embarrassing to have a donor ask you a question about a mailing he or she received and to have to admit you didn't read it. If you aren't interested enough to read the communication from your employer, why should your donor bother?
Being armed with facts can keep you from being embarrassed, having to admit you don't know or, worst of all, sacrificing your integrity by making up an answer when queried by a donor.