5 Tips to Make Your Fundraising (and Your Life) Better
As a capital campaign consultant and coach, I’ve doled out lots of advice over the years. A few tips recur again and again. They always seem fresh, pertinent and important.
These tips are more about human nature than they are about fundraising. But then, great fundraising is more about human nature than it is about money.
1. Find out what people want and help them do it.
I’ve found over many years that encouraging people to do what they want to do is easier than getting them to do something else. This is true for your donors. It may also be true for your children, your partner and even your friends.
The trick: You’ve got to find out what it is that people want to do. That means asking questions, being curious and dropping your judgment just because what they want to do isn’t what you had in mind.
Ask your donors:
- Questions about their values and philanthropic priorities.
- How they’d like to invest their money to make the world a better place.
- Where their interests and priorities come from. You’ll find it interesting to learn, and they’ll be pleased to tell you.
Then, figure out if your organization can help them accomplish their goals. If not, don’t ask for a gift. If so, the sky's the limit!
2. Use your mistakes as opportunities.
I’m sure you know how lousy it feels to make an error. I still cringe when I think of some of the foolish errors I’ve made over the years. Misspelled names, pages copied upside-down, numbers transposed. In a proposal years ago, I actually left off a zero. (Oh no!) But most errors are also opportunities.
The trick: If you are open, honest and make amends, your mistakes will lead to stronger relationships than when you are perfect. I’ve found that most of my errors have turned into opportunities. In truth, everyone makes mistakes and if you fess up and correct what went wrong, people not only understand, but they empathize and want to help. So don’t set out to make errors, but when you do, recognize the opportunities.
3. Ask for help often.
Asking people to help you is far more powerful and effective than doing it all yourself. While I admire a spirit of independence and self-sufficiency, doing things yourself only goes so far. If you are going to expand your reach and power, you’ve got to call on others for help. And that goes for both life and fundraising!
The trick: Whenever possible, ask people for their thoughts and advice about what you are working on. Not only will you build relationships, but your eyes will be open to new ideas. And when your task is done successfully, you’ll be able to recognize others for their help. So get over the idea that to be successful, you’ve got to do it all yourself. That’s just flat wrong!
4. Acknowledge contributions of all sorts.
Notice and acknowledge the helpful things people do. Don’t thank them idly with hackneyed language. Instead, highlight specifically the things they do in your thanks.
The trick: Notice what people do. (This takes practice.) All too often, people do nice things or help in little ways, but we tend to be too focused on other things to see them. Develop the habit of noticing and recognizing people for the good things they do. The more often you let them know you notice, the more they’ll be happy to do good things for you.
5. Remember that people are consistent.
Anticipate that people’s behavior patterns will repeat again and again. You can pretty much count on it. That might seem a little depressing—and sometimes it is—but consistency of behavior is also helpful.
Take for example, someone who is often late to meetings. If you plan for that, you’ll set up the meeting to start 30 minutes after your colleague said they’d arrive. If you know that someone often puts things off, you can create interim deadlines to help her function better.
The trick: Notice the patterns and try to keep your emotions in check. Rather than being angry or pushing to change their patterns, work with them. You’ll find it more satisfying and you’ll be more successful—and so will they.
Thinking about a capital campaign? Need an expert to advise you in the early stages without paying steep consultant’s fees? Check out Capital Campaign Masters for more information.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.