Fundraising is like weaving a quilt…
By Lori Tessel, 12-11-11
Working in the Jewish community is an extraordinary experience. While working with donors, I learn about their interests and passions. I realize that like a quilt, each family has memories and life lessons that are woven together so that their decisions fall directly in line with their experiences. For young fundraisers, below is an easy way to get to learn the most about a donor and to build a long lasting trust.
Questions – Asking the right questions are critical to every conversation and will help guide the conversation to create the best solicitation to fulfill the donor’s philanthropic goals. One must remember that questions should help you build a relationship with donors and in time the donor will trust you with many philanthropic decisions including leadership opportunities, financial decisions and general organizational inquiries. These questions along with the donors’ answers essentially create the fabric blocks of their quilt and are the foundation for all that you do with any donor.
Unique – Remember that we are all individuals with different experiences that shape our opinions, passions, and interests. Choosing questions that allow a donor to open their heart to you will make the entire process enjoyable for both you and the donor. There are always the standard questions: What was your most pivotal Jewish experience? Who has made the most impact on your life? And then there are some difficult conversations: Have you ever experienced a tragedy? What are your thoughts on Israel? Do you and your spouse have conflicting opinions? These are all important questions to help you see how a donor articulates their experiences.
Investigate – Learn as much as you can before you meet with a donor. Knowing the information helps you form the best and appropriate questions. It is important to know several key elements about a person before you meet with them: personal information, company information, other philanthropic interests, political contributions and social connections.
Listen – When you listen carefully, you are able to weave all the information together and continue to ask additional questions. Over time, as you hear the donor share their thoughts and passions, watch their families grow, share their ups and downs, you will become part of their living quilt. As you give them positive philanthropic experiences and help foster their own philanthropic goals, you become their partner. They will look to you for guidance about your organization as well as others. As you move to other organizations, they may or may not support your new organization. This is another vital piece of information.
Timing – With all of this information you gather and the relationship you are building with your donors, you must know the best time to make the ask. Is it good timing for them financially, are others involved in their decision-making, will you need their leadership as well, or will this significant gift be tied to an event or campaign? Regardless of the size of the ask, you need to feel confident and understand as much as you can about the donor. The best way to know if the timing is right is to let the donor know that you are coming to speak to them about a gift to the organization. Be truthful, don’t ever surprise a donor with a solicitation.
Smile – Be confident. Enjoy the work. As a fundraiser, you are doing special work that many people are uncomfortable doing. You are asking people to give money to help those in need; don’t ever be ashamed of this. You are the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Be proud and speak from your heart. As you do, you will enhance the lives of so many and these donors’ “quilts” of information will help you to do what is best for both the donors’ and the community.