The Everyman Fear: How to Overcome the Fear and Embrace Asking for Money
Donors make gifts to see the realization of their personal values, the visions they hold dear. Stop. Read the previous sentence one more time. Donors make gifts to fulfill some of the ideas, values and dreams that they hold most dear.
True, you can harass someone to make a gift. You can create guilt. You can even threaten. Each of these approaches may — and often does — have some effect. These approaches never result in a gift that is reflective of the individual's financial capacity, however, and they are almost never repeatable. So I really don't intend to address these tactics here as they are not "philanthropy" in any sense of the word.
When individuals make gifts that are reflective of their personal values, visions and goals, they are much more like "investors" than "consumers." I'm focusing on individuals forasmuch the professional literature is often focused on grants and organized funders, individuals are and always have been responsible for almost 90 percent of all philanthropy.
With this understanding, seeking a charitable gift is no longer a transaction but the invitation for an individual to share in your organization's vision and its values. This intangible return is what philanthropic investors seek. And to them, it is much more valuable and powerful than money.
Armed with this understanding, fundraisers — professional and volunteer — become much more confident that, properly communicated, they are offering the philanthropic investor the opportunity of a lifetime: self-fulfillment, which something that money alone simply cannot buy. The stakes are raised, however, for investors want to be partners in your success, not merely bystanders.
Philanthropic investors want to be appreciated more than recognized. Including donors in this way takes an ongoing commitment to them. That ongoing commitment to communicate, show meaningful results and heighten donors' personal stake in your organization's success often requires a total rethinking of an organization's fundraising paradigm. It can be a little bit scary. A paradigm built upon the concept of investment, however, is not only the key to developing meaningful relationships built on mutual trust and benefit, thereby eliminating the anxiety of the process, but is also the critical component to fundraising sustainability.