Larry C. Johnson: The 8 Principles of Sustainable Fundraising
FS: What are some key takeaways from the book?
LJ: The key takeaway, the absolute No. 1 is that in order to be successful in fundraising, you must discern first what the operating principles are — what's really going on with the situation here that I'm looking at. Then adopt the right mental framework, a framework of investing, a framework of win-win, not taking, and then, and only then, think about the process. So much of what we see in the fundraising world, the focus is immediately on the process: solicit this way, communicate this way, do this, use these words. That's all well and good, but without the other steps before that, you're just sort of shooting in the dark.
Then you always offer to a donor more than you ask for. That's a mental perception when you go to a donor. They really want to make a gift if you give them an opportunity. And then fundraising really isn't about money. Yes, money's involved. Don't get me wrong. But it's really about relationships and fulfilled values and dreams. Those are the takeaways I'd like people to have.
FS: What role does leadership play in fundraising?
LJ: Leadership is critical. You're not going to go very far without it because fundraising is an inside-out proposition. It builds out from inside. And people take their cue from leadership, wherever they're going. Most of the resistance in fundraising comes from an anxiety about asking, and that often comes from a sense of not feeling capable or made feeling competent. A lot of nonprofits could help the situation by helping to remove that anxiety by reframing the proposition, by providing some tools — if you look at the Cygnus Research surveys that come out consistently board members don't feel like they're getting the kind of training that they need. Then also, provide them an opportunity to be successful. Nothing is more reassuring and confidence-building than success. And of course the last one is, depending on the makeup of your board and the social contract under which they were enlisted, it may be necessary to change some members. That's the Jim Collins "change the people on the bus" proposition.