Do Your Donor a Favor and Ask for a Gift
I was in a meeting where the CEO of a nonprofit was talking to me about the financial needs of the organization. She was not in a crisis situation — but it was getting close.
If I told you the details of the organization you would agree with me that finding funding for this cause would be like falling off a log. Easy.
Here is what surprised me.
As the meeting went on, this CEO must have gone through a list of 60 to 100 people she knew who either had given some financial support already or could give if asked.
If I had you review the list of people she rattled off you would agree with me that it is a very impressive list of some very wealthy people.
So, I said to the CEO: “I have been sitting in this meeting for over two hours and you have gone through name after name of some very impressive people you know — people who have helped you and who, if you asked them for help again, would drop everything and give you the funds you need. In fact, you have actually said they would do that. Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you ask them?”
The answer was the same one Jeff and I have heard hundreds of times. It goes like this: “I don’t feel comfortable doing it — it doesn’t feel right.”
Here is what is so interesting about this. The very funds this good CEO needs are right in front of her. But she cannot, no matter how hard she tries, reach out and access them because she actually thinks that it will offend the donor.
So, I attempted to straighten out the situation by explaining that the real thing she had going with all of these people she listed.
- Each of these donors had, buried deep in their heads, hearts and psyche, a passion to do the very thing for which the CEO needed the money. That this need existed in those donors before the CEO even knew them — that they brought that passion with them — shows it is a very personal part of what they needed to do in life. I spent a lot of time on this point because I wanted the CEO to understand that she was not inserting herself into the donor’s life in an intrusive way. No, she was simply learning the donor was interested and had a passion for the very thing her organization was doing.
- The donors were looking for a way to fulfill their passion. Actively looking. Think about this in your life. When you are interested in something, do you just cast it out of your mind and forget about it? No. You dwell on it. You think about it. You take action. You do not sit there with it. That is what I told the CEO: “Your donors want to find expression for the need they have.”
- The CEO would be doing each donor a favor by asking for a gift. This is the counterintuitive part for a person who has fears around asking. They cannot see the logic of the donor’s need that is independent from them and that the donor wants to find expression. They somehow think that bringing up the giving thing is a violation of the donor. How can that be when you are helping the donor do what they already want to do?
Because this CEO’s beliefs on fundraising and giving were so deeply held I am not sure I made much headway in convincing her to change her behavior and ask for the funds she needs. But I am writing about this today because I want you to make sure you have this right in your head.
Do your donor a favor and ask for a gift. It will help them do what their heart longs to do. And that will be a gift to the donor bigger than the gift they will give you.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.