Are You Believed?
Have a fundraising challenge you want to crack? Weary of doing the same old, same old yet hoping for different outcomes? Do you want the over-the-top results that come from superior strategy?
Email me with your particular problem, and I’ll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
Bill and I had a serious—but ultimately beneficial—conversation last week. He is the board chair of a small, youth charity. Bill reached out to me share some of his frustrations with the organization’s fundraising efforts.
Bill didn’t call to complain about the executive director or the development officer. He wasn’t seeking the “secret sauce” of how to blow the top off of their fundraising.
He was frustrated, however.
Bill’s organization has been around for 20 years or so. It's known in the community it serves for doing good things with at-risk youth. And, its track record is one of reasonable success.
Listening to Bill, I kept wondering, “So what’s there to beef about?”
After several minutes of describing the organization, what it does and its record, I began to get an inkling of what was to come.
Its fundraising is steady—and steady, and steady, and steady. Despite consistent, generally solid, fundraising efforts, the financials of their fundraising program really haven’t budged in almost seven years.
You may be saying to yourself, “I would like to be in such a position.” You, like me, may be running through your head all of the potential constraints that might be keeping a lid on its fundraising totals.
Let’s see. Is the organization not asking enough? Is it not scaling asks for renewing donors? Is its donor-renewal rate in the tank?
That last one is a pandemic among nonprofit organizations and certainly a likely place to look.
Last year, the overall retention rate for nonprofits dropped to less than 40 percent. Compare that to the overall customer retention rate for commercial products—95 percent—and you get a glimpse of the gaping size of the chasm. Imagine—individuals more loyal to a soap brand than their charity.
As we continued to talk, one by one, we eliminated each of the usual suspects. Our conversation began to center around the way it presents itself to investors and would-be supporters. How the organization communicated its “case”, as we fundraisers say.
At one point in the conversation, it came to me, and I simply blurted out, “Your supporters don’t believe in you enough.”
“What?” said Bill.
The organization has a reasonably good renewal rate (70 percent). It's been acquiring new donors gradually over time. It's average gift has remained steady or gradually increasing.
There is, however, a considerable number of the organization’s investors who are giving below, way below, their capacity.
Principle 2 of The Eight Principles™ is "Begin at the Beginning™." The starting point for a sustainable fundraising program that grows over time is communicating with your investors and would-be supporters in a way so they will believe in you.
Belief requires an emotional commitment.
I told Bill when the organization reaches out to supporters it needs to do so using words, metaphors and stories that resonate with these supporters, not simply “make the case” for helping at-risk youth.
I’m currently coaching an organization for which this is exactly the issue. The supporting constituency gives for a variety of reasons—none of them the “obvious” one.
The question is, “Obvious to whom?”
I told Bill that if he and the other leaders of the organization want to break through their glass ceiling, they’ll need to find out what the emotional issues are—for their supporters, not for them—then very carefully construct a communication program that addresses these.
Use the language of your donors, I told Bill. Not the professional-speak or “approved” terminology. It’s probably going to be several messages directed very specifically—not a “one size fits all.”
When our conversation ended, he was still mulling what I had said. I invited him to circle back in a few months and let me know what the organization was doing.
Those who share their resources with your organization want to believe in you, not simply “support” you.
Give them a reason—the reason they are looking for. The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® are about creating a philanthropic revenue stream that sustains itself but also grows, over time.
The goal is sustainable and scalable.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me, and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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