People Give to People
I recently read a book by Robert Demont and Philip Conkling titled “People Give to People: Simple Rules for Successful Fundraising.” Bob has been a teacher, coach, camp counselor, board member, political campaign manager, international performer and marketing representative. He formed Demont Associates in Maine in 1993 and believes in promoting a culture of philanthropy. Philip Conkling has a background in conservation and business. He launched the Island Institute in 1983, where he led the organization for more than 30 years. He also directed a capital campaign and grew the organization over time.
I worked with Bob as a senior associate at Demont Associates for approximately two years in the early 2000s. I was also blessed at that time to work daily with the late George J. Mongon. Both Bob and George had long tenures as consultants. They both directed their own consulting companies and could do anything in the consulting field. They provided counsel to organizations that have raised millions of dollars over the years in every field from health care and religion to universities. I was truly blessed to learn consulting skills from them. As a career practitioner, I enjoyed engaging in prospects from both a practitioner and consulting aspect. Both Bob and George provided examples of leadership to follow. They understood people give to people.
One of my best memories of working with George and Bob was when I was charged as a consultant, to direct a $37 million capital campaign for Kiwanis International in Indianapolis. Leading this effort allowed me to make presentations in such places as Honolulu, Hawaii and Montreal. After months of cultivation with a lead gift prospect—including a drive to St. Louis from Indianapolis to have lunch with the prospect—I found myself at a meeting in Florida with George and Bob discussing a solicitation strategy with this prospect.
That solicitation strategy led to a million dollar gift from the prospect. What made this gift extra special was the fact that the Wall Street Journal called me and encouraged me to ask the donor to have his name published in their paper. After several requests, he finally said yes. This gift was published in the Wall Street Journal in 2006, and the donor called me several times the day it was published. He was very proud of the gift he and his wife made to Kiwanis. At the time, it was the largest gift made in the history of the organization. George and I determined that more than 75 different types of contacts were made with this donor before the actual ask and subsequent gift was completed. A number of people are credited with this success as they all touched the donor in some way.
This could easily be one of Bob’s stories in his book, which is made up of many short stories. He and Philip Conkling organized the book according to lessons learned through the years. They feel the most important lesson of fundraising is that success results from the solicitors’ ability to connect and sustain personal relationships with donors. The authors note the most important ingredient for building credibility and chemistry with donors is time. A key point made in the book is listen to the gift rather than sell the institution. You understand this concept the longer you are in the business.
Some of the book’s major points are:
- Never be embarrassed to ask people for money.
- If you don’t ask, you won’t get your turkey.
- Go to your best prospects first for confidence.
- Real money is only obtained through face-to-face relationships.
- Remember the 90-10 rule.
- Do not treat donors as ATM machines.
- Never turn down a gift, and use it to ask for another gift.
- Remember the word “fun” in fundraising.
- Use humor in interactions whenever possible.
- Understand the reasons why a donor supports your cause.
- You must reach a donor emotionally to truly connect with them.
- Technique counts with fly fishing or courting.
- If you want money, ask for advice.
- The more significant the donor, the more important the gratitude.
- Match the right solicitor with the right donor.
- Always ask yourself, “Why is your organization is worthy of a prospect’s attention?”
Many of us who have been in this profession for a long time are driven to promote our profession through speaking, writing and sharing. I encourage you to read Bob and Philip’s book. You can obtain the book by going here.
It is true that people give to people. If you are interested in a long and satisfying career in fundraising, get out of the office and engage others. You will be amazed at what you’ll learn about others and yourself. Who knows, you may also pick up a few dollars along the way for your organization!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.