Are you a nonprofit leader trying to improve your fundraising skills?
The vast majority of nonprofit leaders would probably answer this in the affirmative: "You bet! I know I need to sharpen those skills. But, to be honest, I struggle with asking for donations. Fundraising is not one of my core competencies."
Interestingly, fundraising skills have little to do with mustering courage to solicit a donor for a monetary amount. Although the specific numerical "ask" is part of the transaction, it is framed mostly by the ability of a nonprofit leader to be agile with, aware of and attuned to the expectations of a donor. Additionally, a nonprofit leader understands the multiple roles she or he plays in the process. As well as the roles others play in the process. The aim is to integrate these specific responsibilities into a nonprofit leader's administrative portfolio. Facilitating each in real time, with real people, for real outcomes.
Here are 15 ways nonprofit leaders can improve their fundraising skills:
# 1: RESPECT THE INDIVIDUAL INTERESTS OF THE DONOR
In the DNA of every donation is a motive, message or quest for meaning. With this in mind, leaders are adept at identifying and cultivating the true center of a funder's intent. Leaders are respectful as they decipher the codes behind a donor's generosity. They're cognizant all donors share some commonalities, but keenly aware of the unique sensibilities that drive the giving of each individual;
# 2: RECORD THE DONOR'S PREFERENCES IN THE DATA BASE
As rapport evolves, leaders are privy to personal information, intimations and inferences shared by a donor. They relay these facts back to their data specialists. They realize this is the intellectual property of the nonprofit, not for them to retain but for the agency to maintain with confidentiality. To access with discretion in order to advance an appropriate step with a donor, or to avert a crisis with the same;
# 3: REVIEW OUTCOMES WITH DONORS OFTEN
Leaders never take a donation for granted, and say so promptly. But in addition to being fluent in gratitude, they are proficient in communicating return on philanthropic investment with supporters. Emphasizing the impact financial gifts are making on the mission. When leaders reach out to donors in this way it is never canned or contrived, but it is planned, personalized and on purpose. They know donors know the difference;
# 4: EXEMPLARY TRANSACTIONS WITH DONORS ARE ESSENTIAL
Because small courtesies still matter to donors, leaders straighten their ties. Button their coats. Polish their executive presence. They prepare for professional interactions. They're timely with supporters. They stay on message when meeting with them. Dotting each "i" and crossing each "t" in the various steps of fundraising. Exceeding the donor's expectations. Modeling these best practices for their teams to imitate;
# 5: EXACTNESS OF FINANCIAL DATA IS IMPERATIVE WITH DONORS
Before releasing any correspondence with numbers to donors, leaders look for the red flags. A bottom line that doesn't add up. An estimate that is more a guesstimate. A budget that is more conjecture than pro forma. Leaders insist on accuracy. Nothing less and nothing more. And so do the donors;
# 6: EXPERTS ON THE TEAM SHOULD PREPARE THE DOCUMENTATION
Leaders know their limits, and have foresight to anticipate a donor's question that may lie beyond their personal expertise. Leaders are pro-active, mobilizing an agency's deputies and departmental managers to be on-call. Leaders readily lateral a donor's inquiries to the experts on their nonprofit team. Leaders make sure those team members get the credit;
# 7: CONCEPTUALIZE THE BIG PICTURE WITH DONORS
As duty calls, leaders may work part of their day in the field, in the trenches and in the minutiae of their organization. But on a minute's notice, their fundraising duties require them to lay their busyness and bias aside. To contemplate the broader issues vexing society, and the grander aspirations of humanity. To consider how the conceptual ideas and ideals held by donors make up the larger fundraising context;
# 8: CONNECT THE RELEVANCY OF THE CAUSE WITH THE INTERESTS OF DONORS
Leaders realize the attention of the donor is not a given. Neither is the evident association between the agency's social cause and a supporter's interests. Instead, leaders start with this given: what matters most to donors is what matters most to them. They begin their fundraising there, seeking to show how the nonprofit's dots connect with a donor's concerns;
# 9: CONSEQUENCES OF A DONOR'S INTENTIONS MUST BE FULFILLED
Leaders who successfully secure donors' gifts also secure donors' trust. This is where the real work of fundraising morphs into the real work of stewardship. Whether it is explicitly spelled out in a grant contract or implicitly agreed on with a handshake, leaders know a gift given by donors in good faith now makes them accountable to do those good works. And to accelerate the greater good;
# 10: PRAGMATISM WITH DONORS IS A PHILOSOPHICAL ADVANTAGE
Even the best laid fundraising plans of leaders can run amuck. A site visit with a donor takes a jarring detour. A foundation reviewing the request misinterprets the footnote on page 3. A supporter is offended by the receptionist's answer to their question. And it's not even 10 a.m. Leaders who are agile in the often asymmetrical world of fundraising go with the flow. They practice resilient pragmatism;
# 11: PERMISSION TO BE VULNERABLE WITH DONORS IS A STRENGTH
Leaders take pride in the mission, and uphold the agency's prestige. They practice what they preach, and their track records as nonprofit professionals prove it. Then a donor spots a blindspot. Or hones in on the organization's weakest link. Instead of going on the defense, leaders give themselves permission to learn from the donor's critique. To acknowledge the truth in the supporter's criticism;
# 12: PARTICIPATE IN A DONOR'S PERCEPTION OF THE AGENCY
Leaders are convinced the vision and mission statements are clear. The elevator speech concise. The apologetic for the cause compelling. But leaders concede a supporter's perception of the agency is also reality. Leaders are willing to see the organization from the donor's viewpoint. Leaders are ready to adjust their own subjective, one-sided, myopic vision. In order to be more clear, concise and compelling with donors;
# 13: BRANDING IS THE NONPROFIT'S PROMISE WITH DONORS
Leaders understand fundraising is a means to steward a social contract with supporters. Leaders know that as long as the nonprofit exists, donors expect the organization to do its part in adding value to the community. Leaders enhance the agency's brand with funders, making sure the nonprofit delivers on its promise to provide what is necessary, noble and nonnegotiable for all;
# 14: BOARD MEMBERS ENSURE DONORS THAT BEST PRACTICES ARE UPHELD
Leaders are authorized fundraising agents of the nonprofit. But in this official role leaders are not peers to donors. Nor can their word alone provide supporters with proof of a mission's fundraising integrity. Ultimately, these are the duties of the Board. Each Board member tasked with relating to peers in the community. Each Board member ready to guarantee the nonprofit's compliance with best practices. When donors ask, leaders defer to the Board's final word on fundraising accountability;
# 15: BEYOND PERSONALITY AND PERFORMANCE, DONORS VALUE PERMANENCE
For the sake of a nonprofit's continuance, leaders know succession plans must be made by design, in earnest and on purpose. Partnering with the Board, strategic scenarios are discussed and decisions made, setting in motion a seamless transition of leadership. In doing this, donors are assured the mission is safeguarded beyond the present leader's talents and testimony. And a nonprofit's permanence makes their financial support a sound philanthropic investment.
There you have it: 15 ways nonprofit leaders can improve their fundraising skills. Remember, these have little to do with mustering courage to solicit a donor for a monetary amount. And everything to do with enhancing abilities, understanding roles and integrating responsibilities. Improvements any nonprofit leader can begin making. Starting today.
Follow @JoeMazzu3 on Twitter and Instagram. Visit intentionalconsulting.com to learn more about his business serving nonprofits.