'We Don't Want Your Money …'
"We don't want your money; we want you to come see what we do."
Here's a story about a transformational gift — a gift of $27.1 million from a company that was in bankruptcy, no less. And it started with the sentence above.
Can you imagine going into a huge potential donor meeting and saying, "We don't want your money; we want you to come see what we do"?
Well, this is what the United Way of Southeastern Michigan (formerly the United Way of Detroit) said back in 2010, when it called on its major corporate supporter.
The timing could not have been worse.
Detroit was sunk in a terrible recession. Unemployment was sky-high. Morale was down. The future seemed hopeless. The auto industry had crashed and burned, and the United Way of Detroit was calling on one of the Big Three automakers. One that was in bankruptcy, no less.
But the United Way of Detroit had a plan. And it started with that brilliant opening line: "We don't want your money ..."
Here's the story:
My friend Tammy Zonker headed up the United Way team that closed this remarkable gift. Here is the cultivation plan Zonker and the United Way team created and successfully executed to win a $27.1 million gift:
1. First they had a dream
They had a vision for a Detroit to be born again. They dreamed that Greater Detroit could become one of the nation's top five places to live and work by 2020.
(Question: How big is your dream for your organization? Is it big enough to attract excitement and big dollars?)
2. And they had a plan too
A concrete plan with four main, measurable goals:
- Early-childhood education: kids prepared to enter school ready to succeed.
- Moving high schools to graduate at least 80 percent of their students.
- Income: helping 19,000 families become financially stable through jobs and benefits.
- Basic needs: reducing hunger by more than 50 percent.
(Question: Are your goals that clear? That measurable?)
The great Tom Ahern recently said: "A case for support is not so much about what your organization does. A case for support is mostly about your promise, the promise you make to the world through your mission, your accomplishments and your plans."
(Question: What is your promise to the community through your work?)
3. The United Way called its four major goals 'Impact Strategies'
This kind of focus and wording helps drive the point home, particularly with corporate funders.
(Question: Could you turn your case into several "Impact Strategies" — each with a measurable goal? If you did, I bet you'd have an easier time fundraising!)
4. The United Way sought a 'mutual-benefit partnership' with its corporate funders
It invited its funders to share the dream, embrace the four goals and be part of the solution. It envisioned itself at the intersection between the corporate world and the people of the city of Detroit.
5. It created a transformational cultivation experience for its major corporate prospect — the automaker's North American president
What's a transformational cultivation experience? Tammy says it is "providing a life-changing, hands-on experience in the donor's preferred mission area of your work. It's like mentoring a child, volunteering on the crisis hotline, awarding a scholarship, riding in the ambulance, a 'day-in-the-life-of' shadowing experience."
(Question: How can you create a transformational cultivation experience for your major donors?)
Bottom Line: This approach and these ideas can guide you to much, much bigger money. It's all in how you approach your donor.
The next time you call on a mega-prospect, try saying, "We don't want your money. We want you to come see what we do."