Don't Skip Steps in the Sequence of a Proper Ask
In these columns I address real-life obstacles and challenges that nonprofits face in creating sustainable funding to deliver their missions and achieve their goals. Readers write via email to receive a quick consultation and perhaps have their particular problem addressed in these columns.
As a thank-you to my readers, from now through the end of the year, I am sending a complimentary copy of my book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising," to the reader whose situation is used in each week's article.
Tom, a young nonprofit executive reached out to me last week a bit frustrated. New to fundraising, he began his work with what could be called a text-book approach. He had worked to engage his board first. Each board member was now stepping up and making an appropriate gift. Board members were also extending themselves to introduce him to members of their networks.
Sounds promising, doesn't it? Well, it should be but it wasn't. As I continued to read the energetic exec's email, I searched for what might be missing. I couldn't find it. Seemed to me as though he was doing everything right. And yet, at the time of his first communication with me, he was 0-6 in solicitations of those to whom board members had referred him even with the board member being present for the solicitation. Yes, he was making face-to-face calls on each of these potential investors as they all had four-figure cash gift potential.
Since I couldn't immediately pinpoint the problem, I responded with a few more questions. Specifically, asking him to describe to me, in detail, the sequence of one of these meetings with potential donors. After I read a couple of these synopses, the picture began to come into focus.
This young man is a likeable person. He represents a worthy social-service organization with a good track record and powerful case for those philanthropists who share it. His youth — age 26 — is a slight disadvantage in approaching potential investors who, for the most part, were at least twice his age. You know, the "old man" syndrome that someone who doesn't have any gray hair can't have possibly seen enough of life to be taken seriously. But that really isn't the central issue.