Do your board members run for the door when you ask them to fundraise? Let’s face it, raising money is not something everyone looks forward to. Honestly, most people fear rejection. The board member worries about what the person will think of them if they ask for money, and worries about the relationship they will have afterwords if the potential donor says “no”. Fundraising fears are a real challenge for many nonprofit board members.
Be prepared. Do your homework on your prospective donors. What are their passions and what projects do they typically fund? This research is truly the most crucial step in the whole process. You can’t ask everyone for money, so you really need to narrow it down to find the prospects that have the best synergy with your mission. The best way to find future donors is to look at your current donors. Who exactly is your ideal donor?
Additionally, the board needs to truly understand “the ask”. How much money is your organization trying to raise, and what will it be used for? You’d be surprised at how many board members are woefully unprepared in this regard. Before you do “the ask” you must have a deep understanding of the goal. If you don’t know it, you’ll never be able to explain it to potential donors. Many of the fundraising fears board members have stem from lack of knowledge.
Your research is done. It’s time to engage, but don’t jump right into the ask. This can be a real turn-off to donors, but nonprofits make the mistake of doing this all the time. First, introduce yourself to the donor or get an introduction. Engage with them over time. Have a visit, grab a cup of coffee together or maybe have a meal. Invite them to your organization’s events. In essence, you have to cultivate the relationship. Learn about their passions and take the time to tell them about your organization and its mission. The donation will come at the intersection of their values, and your work.
Once you have a clear picture of your donor’s interests and how that aligns with your cause, ask them to invest in it. You won’t need a slick sales pitch. Just ask with sincere desire and appreciation. Many board members pair up to do the ask. This is a great strategy. Strength in numbers definitely works and with a partner there, fears of fundraising won’t get the best of you.
After you ask, give them the space to make a decision. Don’t continuously hound the donor. Be respectful and wait for them to give you an answer. They’ll let you know. For many board members, the waiting is even more stressful than the ask, but if you hover, you may just talk your donor out of a donation.
Hopefully your donor will say “yes”, but if they say “no”, handling the rejection is one of the most important parts of donor engagement. The donor may want to give, but the timing might not be right or there might be an obstacle in the way that is preventing them from giving. Keep the relationship going and work with them to remove those obstacles. And if they still end up saying “no”, be the gracious nonprofit that can handle a negative answer. You’ve invested the time and you know the person, so if the donor is not able to give financially, you might just find other ways he or she can help your cause. Later, when the timing is right, the donor might give a donation down the road. Nonprofits who can master fundraising fears are the ones that truly stand out in a donor’s mind.
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