Conversion Of A Reluctant Fundraiser

The fundraising event was over. Well, the event was over. But the fundraising wasn't over yet. On my desk was the list. Names of people who had made donations to last year's event but didn't respond this year. My hunch? Perhaps invitations to our fundraising event were unopened. Still buried under stacks of mail in homes. In offices. Wherever. Then there were names of supporters who had mentioned they would be pledging, but never did. And the names of individuals who had pledged but hadn't paid yet. Perhaps they've all been swamped, and just forgot to pledge or send in their payments.

It's time to get started on the list. Who will I contact first?

Early on in my vocational mission of fundraising, I had to come to terms with the post-event follow-up phase. It was one thing to raise donations before the event. That's when the winds of goodwill and generosity are at your back. But to contact constituents who could have, should have and would have responded to our appeal? After the event was over? Well, that was another matter to deal with.

By reaching out to them at this juncture, what exactly was I doing? Was I focused solely on the money our nonprofit could, should or would have received from them? Was I perceived by these supporters as a pest? Pushy? Presumptuous? Nothing more than a donation collector? Or, worse, a professional beggar?

It was time to face my reluctance. Head on. And get a grip.

This particular angst is one of the anvils on which a personal philosophy of fundraising, development or advancement work is forged. How you respond to this angst either produces in you a steady resolve, or the slow-drip of self-doubt and constantly second-guessing yourself. The latter outcome is a miserable existence, and you probably won't last long in this vocation.

My resolve came as I began to formulate a "golden rule" of post-event engagement. I put myself in the donor's shoes, and mused from a "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" perspective:

  • If I was a friend or fan of the mission;

  • And if I had a history of supporting the cause generously and faithfully;

  • And if I had an ongoing rapport and dialogue with the charity's Advancement team;

  • And if, for any of a variety of perfectly plausible reasons, I forgot to respond to the nonprofit's solicitation for support;

  • Then I would expect someone on the Advancement team to reach out to me after the event, offering me another opportunity to make my donation;

  • And this would please me immensely;

  • But should they not reach out to me, I will assume my support is not as critically important or needed at this time.

This proxy reflection pretty much did it for me. Slowly and over time I actually began looking forward to post-event engagement with the type of donors profiled in the "golden rule."

I did this because these donors were true friends and fans of our mission. Their giving histories were remarkable testimonies to their affinity with our cause. Plus I enjoyed an ongoing interaction and idea-exchange with many of them. Thankfully, we were on a first-name basis. I also knew which ones sometimes procrastinated, or had a proclivity to misplace an invitation or two, or occasionally forgot to make their pledge payment on time.

There were so many ways to reach out, with respect, to these constituents in the post-event follow-up phase:

  • Almost all appreciated a friendly and very personal post-event prompt or reminder, via a brief email or phone visit, letting them know there was still time to donate;

  • Others would be especially interested in an update on the fundraising total. For a good reason. If we hadn't made our goal yet, they were the ones we could count on to put us over the big number. If we had met our fundraising goal, they were the ones who delighted in adding to the grand total;

  • Many were grateful for a final chance to be included in post-event donor recognition lists. They understood that their names published on these lists might incite and inspire others to give to next year's event;

  • A few just needed to recall what they gave to last year's event. We could help them with that. And if we asked them to donate the same amount or suggested an increase over their giving last year, more times than not they would be happy to do so;

  • For several, a simple pledge balance invoice was all that was needed. With suggested payment options or payment plans outlined;

  • If our nonprofit's fiscal year was ending soon, and we needed to close the books on the fundraising totals, we would mention that. Or if the calendar year-end was approaching, we would note the opportunity to issue them a receipt for their tax-deductible support.

Was there always a positive response in the post-event follow-up phase? No. Some constituents simply could not, should not and would not have responded, regardless of the opportunity extended. But in all of this reaching out, I came to realize, by surprise, that a second wind of goodwill and generosity was often at my back. Forging an empathetic regard for the donors profiled in the "golden rule." Bringing with it many post-event second harvests for our nonprofit. And eventually turning my reluctance into a steady resolve.

Follow @JoeMazzu3 on Twitter and Instagram. Visit to learn more about his business serving nonprofits.

#Vocation #Fundraising #DonorsMotivations #DonorRelations #BestPractices

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