Everyone should feel as I do when they go to work every day. As I see it, I help donors fulfill their philanthropic goals. When I work with donors, I often think of them in a ten year plan. In my current position, I work with donors whom I have known for almost 15 years. It gives me great pride to see them in top leadership positions in my organization as well as other worthwhile organizations in our community. Below are my top 10 inspirations for all the great (and want to be great) fundraisers:
1. Own what you do! Sometimes when the words “fundraiser” or “solicitor” are said, the speaker’s voice chokes back with bitterness. When I hear that, I think, he/she has no idea what I do. I help elevate a donor’s purpose in life and enrich their soul. In doing so, I enrich mine. Let me be clear, fundraisers should not apologize for working so hard on behalf of the community. We do the work that some people don’t/won’t/can’t do.
2. Educate yourself in your organization – in addition to the professional training that you get in your organization, meet with key managers to ask more specific questions about their department. Often, when you learn more specific information about the programs and the staff, you have more confidence to articulate the organization’s mission. Ask many questions, you may learn about a new program or a change in an already successful program.
3. Have a strategy for every donor interaction – Regardless of the amount of time that you get to spend with a donor, 5 minutes or 2 hours, have a list of items that you want to discuss with the donor. As you move through the agenda, cross it off. This tells the donor that this meeting is productive and their time is not wasted. If you are speaking with them briefly on the phone, send a follow up email to thank them for their time and to complete any task you discussed. Donors like fundraisers who are responsible and follow through on tasks.
4. Interact often with donors – send them articles that you find interesting. Donors have many interests and you will have many conversations with them over the years. Develop the relationship so that they see you as a philanthropic resource and guide. Offer them opportunities to learn in various areas within your organization. Their interests can change over years and their professional expertise may be of use in different areas throughout the organization.
5. Learn about what your donors are involved in outside your organization – Donors often have interests outside your organization. These interests may enhance their experience with you or prohibit them from getting more involved at this time. As you find areas of interest, determine if these interests align with your organization. Perhaps there is a similar area within your organization that would speak to this interest. Always thank them for what they do on behalf of the entire community. If timing prohibits them from working with you now, still nurture the relationship. When their time becomes available, you will know and they will now want to work with you because you have developed the relationship.
6. Touch their heart through an experience – Many donors can and do buy whatever they like. They live in beautiful homes, drive great cars and travel to extraordinary places. What we can offer them is a heartfelt and emotional experience that money can’t buy. Take your donor to meet a beneficiary of your organization. Have the donor volunteer their time. Sharing this type of moment is rewarding for both you and the donor.
7. Think big – Share your organization’s hopes and dreams with your donor. These conversations can accomplish several things. First, you can determine very quickly how your donor sees him/herself. Secondly, it tells the donor that you want to have a long partnership with him/her. Finally, the donor will share their long-term goals and dreams.
8. Don’t rush, you are in a marathon, not a sprint – Donors feel more comfortable if you do not rush them. Timing is essential to the best solicitations as well as trust and trust can only develop over time. You want your donors to stay around for a long time and invest in your organization. Take your time to learn about the donor, educate them and the opportunities will present themselves for great solicitations, engagements and ultimately top leadership.
9. Work on areas where you are weak – Find someone you trust who will be kind with criticism. It is difficult to see your own weaknesses so you want someone who will be honest. Once you determine areas for growth, find resources to help you – classes, mentors and peers.
10. Figure out what you do best – You do a lot of things well, so construct your cultivation and solicitation to allow your best self to shine. Remember, if you are confident and comfortable with the information and goals you want to present, it will be easier to succeed. Use your assets to tell the best story, inspire the donor and create a long-term partnership.
Now go and have fun…