When I first began fundraising professionally, I remember trying to hide how emotional I was in my cases for support. I was embarrassed, even though my kvelling got the job done quite nicely.
More than a decade ago, I became immersed in philanthropy, although, I was born and raised to be philanthropic.
My genes are more powerful than my own personal means, still, I am unwavering and passionate about fundraising and marketing for that matter. I can’t talk about one without talking about the other. They are married after all, (MUST be joined together in holy fundraising-ony), and must not be divorced due to lack of communication and/or irreconcilable differences.
I charge myself and enthusiastically accept a one-day-at-a-time, lifetime job of remaining a student. Much of my learning is focused on fundraising, marketing and the dos and don’ts of nonprofit organizational management.
While the most valuable learning happens on the job, I read as many books and articles as I can –
I don’t do this to be the best. I do it because I’m in love.
I have heard from many lay leaders/constituents in each position I have held about the importance of listing statistical data. I agree, (sort of.) I think it’s essential to communicate EXACTLY where a donor’s contribution is going and even more important, report back benchmarks and outcomes. Few small-ish organizations do this really well in my experience. To be honest, even large organizations fall short far too often.
Because I come from a vast marketing background, and I am a donor to all organizations I work for, I can tell you this — Fundraising is not about money, period. It’s about great relationships, love and collaborative work. When done well, this should result in individuals, foundations and corporations reaching in their pockets due to being inspired and committed themselves.
While I was in the most horrific fundraising position EVER, I learned a great deal about pushing projects, listing facts and figures and not being too emotional over anything. This of course, ended up being a phenomenal experience, because I learned a great deal about what I will never do again, but also, how fundraising is about being a matchmaker between donor and the work of an organization. Sure, sometimes, it’s restricted and should be. A donor may want to give to a very specific program, geographical location, etc.
If your organization doesn’t have anything for that donor who wants to give a major gift to something you don’t have installed, DO NOT create something for the big donation. I have witnessed that far more than I’d like to tell you about. Yikes.
Sometimes people laugh at my level of love, passion and enthusiasm for my work. I do too actually. More than that though, I am in love with what I do, and the people I do it for. People are at the core of every organizational mission. If this isn’t put into practice, I won’t be very good at it.
One thing that I don’t talk about very much publicly, as I’m usually making a case for organizational support and matchmaking, is that I LOVE (and NEED) systems. Systems MUST be in place internally in order to be fully responsible to staff, board leadership and really, ALL donor contributions.
Systems give all who are involved in a nonprofit organization the clarity and the faith to create the strongest buy in. P.S. The systems actually have to be accessible and work well. I ain’t ‘talkin micromanaging, busy work here.
So, let’s talk. Let’s get emotional, right in your kishkes, together, but let’s talk systems and data too. Just like any great relationship, it has to be more than lusty passion. The foundation has to be strong as hell to really make the courting a sustainable, balanced, two-way street.