<SATURDAY, May 03, 2008Saturday, December 12, 2008
It’s time to set the record straight: The world isn’t coming to an end.
You might think otherwise if certain nonprofit organizations were your only source of information.
One hospital canceled its campaign for fear its donors would stop giving. A youth-serving organization put fundraising on hold until the economy stabilizes. And a nonprofit media outlet decided to halt its campaign – after raising more than half its goal – because other areas of its budget were contracting.
If you’ve made a decision like those described above, brace yourself for the next sentence. They were bad choices: They presumed donors’ preferences instead of letting them make their own decisions.
Does a strained economy diminish the need for specialized care and cutting-edge research at one of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals? Does it dampen the demand for strong adult role models and achievement opportunities for boys and girls? Does it reduce individuals’ needs for basic news and information that helps them make informed choices and decisions?
The fact is, donors to nonprofit organizations around the country are stepping up to support their essential missions:
A joint campaign for two youth-serving agencies in Illinois – one serving boys and the other girls – continues to outpace its fundraising goals. Having raised more than $200,000 a month since it got underway, the campaign’s donors are making significant gifts because of the differences they know the organizations’ new facility will make in the lives of the youth they serve.
A Missouri organization serving homeless individuals and families is having its best fundraising year ever. It has secured significant corporate and government grants in recent months, each totaling more than $200,000. Donors are responding generously to the organization’s critical mission, which is more important than ever in the current economy.
Using outdated equipment in an inadequate facility, an Arkansas sheltered workshop for adults with special needs continues raising major gifts for a new building and equipment that will enable it to fully meet its expanding demand in a safe, secure environment. To date, the organization’s campaign has booked more than $3 million toward its $6.4 million goal.
What do these organizations have in common? A conviction that, if properly educated, motivated and solicited, people will choose to support their important missions even in – and perhaps because of – these tough times.
We can all learn from the examples of fundraising success:
Generalities are out; specifics are in. People give because they want to advance the good things organizations do and impact the lives of those in need. Go light on describing your features and functions and emphasize how they improve your ability to help others.
Don’t beat around the bush. If you want somebody to make a gift to advance your important mission, ask for it. How can a potential donor know what you expect if you don’t share your hopes clearly, articulately and compellingly.
Put your money where your mouth is. What have you given the organization you’re representing? People want to support causes that are successful, and there’s no stronger endorsement of a nonprofit’s viability than your financial endorsement. Make your gift before asking others to give.
As it turns out, the world isn’t coming to an end. Which begs a question.
A big part of fundraising is showing up and being available. I learned this lesson on a very memorable New Year’s Eve, a very long time ago.
As an eager young fundraiser working for Washburn University, I didn’t know that it was unusual still to be at work in the evening of December 31st. But, there I was.
Earlier that year, a graduate of Washburn University School of Law told me he was going to give a gift of land to his synagogue, a private K-12 school and Washburn. John Shamberg, who has since passed away, made millions of dollars for institutions all over the world, and he wanted to give a significant gift to organizations he valued. His 40 acres of land on the outskirts of Kansas City were valued at $450,000, and his intention was to give $150,000 each to three organizations.
He’d left the task to the last day of the year, but now he was ready to make it happen.