The Make or Break Part of the Ask
A dependable revenue stream that grows—ah, paradise!
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!
Diane is the development officer for a youth-oriented charity in the Southwest. Her organization wants to improve the response rates in its direct mail efforts.
Last week, Diane reached out to me with a straightforward question. "What is the critical piece of a solicitation letter?"
I told her that the most important element of the solicitation letter is the part that will be most meaningful to the person receiving it.
I think she took my immediate response as being coy.
"What will that be?" she replied jokingly. Subtext: How can you possibly know that?
As people's needs and interests vary, so will the critical element of the letter. Principle 6 of The Eight PrinciplesTM is Divide & GrowTM. You treat different donors differently. It's really not so hard when you give it a little thought.
If it's someone who has never given, I told Laura, it's essential that she tie the potential supporter to her organization through the donor's known interests and how those interests intersect with her mission.
The donor's interests?
That's right, it's about the interests of the person to whom you're reaching out that coincide, in some way, with the mission of your organization.
I told Laura that everyone also wants to know how you are connected to him or her. People want to know whom you know that they know. Who suggested you reach out to them?
Creating this may be a stretch. That's OK. Feeling the connection, if only indirectly, goes a long way to boost a person's interest in the cause..
If the recipient is already a supporter, then you must first express your gratitude—as specifically as possible—before you make another request. This seems like such common sense. It is very uncommon, however. I see this in my own experience about one time in 10.
Asking ad nauseam is the rule. Whether it's a seven-figure donor or someone for whom $50 is a stretch, donors really don't like it. It's the No. 1 donor negative, year in and year out.
For Laura, just asking the question as to what's important puts her in a select group of listeners rather than tellers. Donors really want to know you're listening.
By far, the most frequently made mistake I see is when a worthy nonprofit assumes mission trumps all. It's mostly out of oversight, as nonprofit leadership is focused on doing good. However, sometimes it's because the organization really believes that donors are merely "funders"—the ATMs of the nonprofit world.
Whether it's oversight or deliberate neglect, the effect is the same. Donors walk.
Sorry. It's just not about you or your mission.
Principle 1 of The Eight PrinciplesTM is Donors are the Drivers®. Donors drive philanthropy. They provide direction and force. Direction through their own values and visions. Force through the resources they give to your organization to realize their visions for a better world. Their visions.
That's not to say yours and theirs can't be the same. But it's your job to show the match.
Laura listened carefully and was quite grateful for the brief time we spent together discussing her needs. She rightly understands that successful fundraising is much, much more about what you're thinking than just doing.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to Laura for reaching out.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), 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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