By Gerry Czarnecki
Fundraising is cause selling, and it takes the right combination of commitment, knowledge, insight and listening skills to convert prospects into donors. In the for-profit world, some of the best startup ideas fail because sales never happened. In the nonprofit world, if fundraising falls short, great passion and dreams of helping can fail seemingly overnight.
Governance and leadership issues are critical, but nothing can cause failure in a nonprofit faster than the inability to raise the money required to fund operations. Hence, fundraising really is the No. 1 priority for management and the board.
Board members of nonprofits need to “give or get.” There are some very wealthy members who can satisfy that expectation by simply writing a personal check. However, for the majority of board members, if you are invited onto a board, the primary expectation is the “get.” You will still be expected to write a check, but more importantly, you will be expected to get your organization to make a meaningful contribution or to work your contact file to generate contributions by others.
Your very first nonprofit board was probably the first time you ever were expected to go to ask somebody to simply give money to a cause. Most first-time “getters” have a tough time asking a friend to give money because it initially feels like begging. That is exactly the worst perspective you could have. Instead, consider asking for money as convincing the donor to invest and believe in your worthwhile cause because it benefits the community and, often, impacts many people.
When you ask somebody to hand you a check in a business transaction, you are asking them to buy something at a price you believe reflects the value of the product or service or to make an investment that has a positive return. In both cases, the value accrues to them or their organization. In raising money for a nonprofit, you must think the same way, but you are talking to potential donors about writing a check to create an outcome that does not benefit them directly, but their community and society as a whole. In both cases, you are selling value.
You must think about fundraising as:
1. Communicating the value of the cause.
2. Convincing others to embrace the passion you feel for the cause.
3. Convincing the donor that the investment is for the good of the community.
4. Aligning your cause with their passion.
If we accept these principles, then good fundraisers master the art of selling a cause. So if you have ever sold something you truly believe in, then you know how to fundraise! ¿
Gerry Czarnecki is founder and chairman of the nonprofit National Leadership Institute (nationalleadershipinstitute.org), which helps boards of nonprofit organizations become strategic assets to the leadership team. His extensive background as a C-suite executive and CEO is coupled with current board leadership of corporate and nonprofit organizations. He is also chairman and CEO of the Deltennium Group. Contact him at 561.293.3726 or