"Relationally intelligent" is probably the best way to describe how fundraising should be approached. Pastor Bill Hybels reflects in his book Leadership Axioms about his fundraising efforts for a huge expansion at Willow Creek. He remarks, "...when the making of the ask is handled in a spiritually and relationally intelligent manner, there is very seldom a downside. Any outcome is fine."
So, what does it mean to be "relationally intelligent" when it comes to fundraising--and specifically, asking someone for money? Here's what Pastor Hybels suggests:
At the beginning of the meeting, set the context. Let them know that you are there to challenge them to do something big for God, but in the end, your relationship is going to be okay whatever they decide. This lets them know that their decision should be based upon God's leading, not on any pressure they may perceive from you.
Next, make the ask clearly and succinctly. Here's what he's said to high-capacity executives and billionaires, "I'd like to ask you to pray about giving more of your hard-earned money to God's purposes in the world."
This is where I add, "I have no idea what you are capable of giving or what you had in mind, but would you prayerfully consider a gift of [insert dollar amount]." I literally ask them for a specific donation amount. Here's why: If you don't make the request specific, the person or couple you are with won't have any idea if you want them to consider a gift of $500, $5,000, $50,000, $500,000 or even $5 million!
Think of it this way, if your neighbor was going to take a trip and asked you to care for their lawn while they were gone, you'd want to know how long they will be gone (a week, a month, the whole summer?), what they would want you to do (mow, water, fertilize?), and how often they would want you to do it (weekly or when it looks like it needs it?). It's the same with fundraising. The more specific you are, the easier the conversation is.
Before you leave, Pastor Hybels suggests that you agree upon a time to get back together. "Could we meet again in a week [or two, or four] to see where you are with this?" I find it easiest to set a time and location right then and there while everyone has their calendar handy.
If you do all of this, at your next meeting, all you need to ask is, "So, how is God leading you?"
Hybels admits, "Sure, sometimes I feel a bit nervous and have a lump in my throat during conversations like these, but there's just no escaping the fact that effective leadership requires growing in this skill. And I know the more confidently I do it, the better off everyone will be."
I couldn't agree more!
It’s not uncommon for nonprofits to receive 30% or more of their annual donations in the month of December. I’ve even seen many checks dated December 31st for over $100,000!
For many people, giving extra charitable donations in December is practically unthinkable. With all of the holiday shopping and gift giving, there isn’t much left to donate to others. This is certainly understandable. There are Christmas things to buy: decorations, trees, holiday sweaters, plane tickets, and—who could forget—Christmas presents galore!
While December may not be the biggest giving month for you or most of the people you know, it is for some of the most generous philanthropic people. For many people—and certainly most of your largest donors—December is the month where they make their biggest donations.
Nonprofits realize this and that’s why they send multiple solicitations letters to supporters the end of November and the month of December. If you don’t ask for donations in December, you are missing out.
So, here are a few ideas help you maximize your fundraising:
Just remember that if you don’t ask you won’t receive and others are asking, so don’t be left out in the cold!
Creating excitement for your event. A question I often get from my private clients is, “Do I need a headliner for my event—someone important that will draw people in?” Certainly everyone wants to have a great event and a “big name” can help with that.
However, the simple answer is “no.” Your mission can be the headliner. People come to your events because they were personally invited by someone and they want to support your cause.
If over the years, you've created an expectation that someone important is going to speak (and you can afford to pay travel and/or speaking fees) then continue with that tradition. But if instead, you can highlight the mission without an outside speaker (such as showing a new video or providing testimonials) do that instead. It makes the planning process much, much simpler, less expensive and you have better control of the messaging.
Just remember, while having a headliner there is nice, your mission is why people really come.