Lessons About Fundraising From the Seat of a Bike
For the last four years, my husband and I have been regulars on the local recreation trail, peddling our bikes 15, 25, even 40 miles. The distance may change, but little else did ... until recently.
Now, when we are out riding, the "serious riders" (you know the ones — they're wearing skin-tight shorts and sitting on super-uncomfortable-looking bikes) raise a hand in greeting. Occasionally one says, "Hi." And once, when we pulled over to take a break, a few even stopped to see if we were OK.
Very little has changed. We're still a middle-aged couple wearing tourist T-shirts and our Teva sandals. Oh, but did I mention? For Christmas, we replaced our 17-year-old bikes and got modern-day road bikes. All of a sudden, we're part of the "in crowd." We look serious — so we're taken seriously.
This observation got me thinking about fundraising and how it is similar. Here are some of my thoughts while this old dog sat on a hard, tiny (and yes, I confess, not overly comfortable) bike seat, peddling away the miles and pondering new tricks.
Look the part
Smaller nonprofits often wonder how they can compete with the glitzy mega-charities that seem to be gathering positive press every other day. My recommendation? Start looking like a serious nonprofit. Sometimes we have to start acting like who we want to be when we grow up, instead of waiting to actually get there before we act the part.
Just like having the "right" bike gave my husband and me a measure of acceptance from the "serious bike-riding club," thinking about your fundraising with a bigger mind-set can help your nonprofit increase its funding base. Instead of thinking car washes and bake sales, think about sitting down with a potential major donor and presenting a well-crafted case for support. Prepare a brochure that looks like you're serious about your mission. Ask for endorsements from people whose opinions carry weight in your donor community.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.