"You will be proud of me. I managed to figure out the import. ... I have always been "manual shy" because the wording and lingo always raised more questions than it answered. Yours is definitely different. I could really understand it. The import wizard also made it very easy."
-- Bonnie W., St. Michael's Academy, Texas
Buy Basic

 

Download free trial

 

Watch Video

Survey Results

In a recent survey, more than 25% of respondents said FundRaiser Basic has directly contributed to an increase in donations!
In a recent survey of FundRaiser Basic users, 90% of respondents indicated that Basic has solved their fundraising problems!

Myth 1: Face it, fundraising is impossible and the process is a mystery. Anyone who has failed at it or has managed to avoid being held accountable for that failure knows this.

Throughout my career I have had to overcome three myths of fundraising that would have me give up before I start...

Myth 2: Everybody knows you need a proven track record if you are to raise money. If you doubt it, just look at all the help-wanted ads for development officers that list as a qualification "successful history of managing a major annual campaign or soliciting large donations."

Myth 3: It's common knowledge that corporations and foundations give most of the money. Just ask those who have never done any fundraising or who would find a contribution of $50 a strain on their budget.

Those three "beliefs" have helped doom many a fundraising campaign. On the other hand, there are some insights about fundraising that successful fundraisers have gained. These insights often fly in the face of the myths of conventional wisdom. They offer no shortcuts. They promise no instant results. However, they are not hard to understand, and nearly anyone can profit from them. They are The Nine Basic Truths Of FundRaising.

The Truths, The Whole Truths, And Nothing But The Truths

Sometimes in this world that showers us with new technology on what seems like an almost daily basis I think we can lose sight of the basics.

To be sure, there are refinements and tweaks to this business of development that help ease the job of assuring a steady source of contributed income for our organizations. And yes, some approaches that worked 10, or 20, or 30 years ago, don't deliver as well in the twenty-first century.

But the basics remain. They are the insights that have been gained through experience -- through success and failure. And they are basic, not simply because they work, but because their absence yields failure. A development effort that ignores the basics dooms its organization to missed goals, shrinking income, and a spiral of diminishing possibilities.

Basic Truth 1: Organizations are not entitled to support; they must earn it.

No matter what an organization's good works, it must prove to those who support it the value of those works to the community and the efficiency with which the organization delivers them. The primary key to fundraising success is to have a first-class organization in every sense. There are no entitlements in the nonprofit world.

Basic Truth 2: Successful fundraising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared.

There are no magic wands, spells, or incantations. Whenever you hear that someone has the magic fundraising touch, laugh. Otherwise, the joke is likely to be on you. No one pulls a rabbit -- complete with its own lettuce farm -- out of the fundraising hat. No one!

Fundraising is simple in design and concept, but it is very hard work! It is planning, executing, and assessing. It is paying attention to detail. It is knowing your organization and what it needs. It is knowing who has the money, and how much they can give.

Basic Truth 3: Fundraising is not raising money; it is raising friends.

People who don't like you don't give to you. People who know little about your organization give little at best. Only those people who know and like you will support you. Raise friends and you will raise money.

Basic Truth 4: You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by selling people on your organization.

No matter how good your organization, how valuable its services, how efficiently it delivers them, people will not give money unless they are convinced to do so. Fundraisers function much as sales and marketing people do in the commercial world. So, be ready, willing, and able to "sell" your organization and the programs for which you are raising money.

Basic Truth 5: People do not just reach for their checkbooks and give money to an organization; they have to be asked to give.

No matter how well you sell people on your organization, no matter how much money they have, no matter how capable they are of giving it, they have to be asked to give. There comes a point when you have to ask for the money. And by the way, make sure that you are asking for a specific amount. Don't leave it up to the donor to recommend how much to give. People with money to give are accustomed to being asked for it. The worst thing that will happen is that they will say no, and even then, they're likely to be supportive, even apologetic.

Basic Truth 6: You don't wait for the "right" moment to ask; you ask now.

If you are always looking for the right moment -- the "perfect" time -- to ask for the money, you will never find it. You have to be ready, willing, and able to close the solicitation at any time. You have to take the risk of hearing no.

If that happens, don't take the rejection personally. They are saying no to the organization, not you. Once you have presented your case, ask for the money. Don't wait. Either close the solicitation, find out what the objection to giving is and overcome it if possible, or get your turndown, and move on.

Basic Truth 7: Successful fundraising officers do not ask for the money; they get others to ask for it.

The professional fundraising officer is the last person who should ask prospects for money. The request should come from someone within the prospect's peer group. It is the job of the professional development officer to design, put together, and manage the campaign. Volunteers who are themselves business executives, well-off individuals, community leaders, or board members, are the ones who should ask their counterparts for donations.

Basic Truth 8: You don't decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow; It takes time, patience, and planning to raise money.

Make the decision to initiate a fundraising campaign before the need becomes dominant. It takes time to develop a campaign and its leadership. With each prospective donor the chances are you will get only one chance to present your case. Be prepared. If you present a poorly prepared case, you will be told no.

Basic Truth 9: Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a business.

No successful businessperson deals with customers as if they had a responsibility to buy. Prospects and donors have to be courted as you would court a customer. They must be told how important they are, treated with courtesy and respect, and if you expect to do business with them again, thanked.

In the end, we raise money from people who:

  • Have it
  • Can afford to give
  • Are sold on the benefit of what we are doing
  • Wouldn't have given it to us unless we had asked
  • Receive appreciation and respect for their gifts

This article is abridged from Non-Profit Funding Demystified.

Tony Poderis writes about fund development based on his more than 30 years experience. His career includes 20 years as Director of Development for The Cleveland Orchestra, and more than 10 years  as a consuitant to both large and small organizations.  For more of his clear and well grounded articles, visit his website at www.raise-funds.com.