The WORST Way to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit

I got lots of e-mails and calls from non-profits every week asking how they can grow their fundraising. Far too often, the calls and e-mail conversations go like this:

Them: We really want to raise more money to help more people.

Me: That’s great! Do you have a fundraising plan?

Them: No.

Me: Do you have a case for support?

Them: No.

Me: Ok, we’ll need to get those together first. But it shouldn’t take that long. Then, we’ll need to go out and start having conversations with your donors, to ask them to upgrade, make multi-year commitments, and help us find new prospects.

Them: Uh, I don’t think we can do that. We don’t have the time. We’d like you to help us write some letters and e-mails to find new big donors. Plus, we want you to tell our board members they have to give more money.

Me: Well, the best place to start, if you want to raise more money, is by deepening your relationship with the people who already support you. Chances are, if you cast a big enough vision, they will not only want to give more, but to help you by introducing you to their friends, business partners, clients, etc.

Them: Yeah, that sounds like it would take too much time. We need big donors now. Do you know anyone who could help us by just raising the money for us? Or who could help us just write a letter to find new major donors in our city? We’re a really good cause. If people just hear about us, they will want to give.

Different Words, Same Attitude

If you have been in fundraising for any length of time, you have probably heard similar sentiments expressed, on occasion, by fundraisers, board members, and Executive Directors. They may have used different words, but the attitude is the same… they are all saying, “What we need is a quick fix. We need to raise more money, now. But we don’t want to get our hands dirty. Just tell us the easy way to do it.”

This is the WORST possible way to approach fundraising for your organization. Why? Because it doesn’t work, and it wastes time and energy, leads to frustration, and burns bridges with donors and supporters.

I wish every non-profit would see that fundraising is integral to their success. I wish every non-profit would understand that they need a written fundraising plan, and a written case for support. But, even if your organization doesn’t appreciate either of those realities, there’s something you absolutely need to understand if you want to grow your fundraising capacity…

Raising More Money takes Time and Personal Contact

You can’t just toss a letter into the mail and hope a $10,000 check will come back in. You can’t hire a fundraising consultant who will show up with a list of donors who “always give” and who will give to your non-profit just because the consultant makes a call. It doesn’t work that way.

Fundraising is a process. Fundraising takes time. It doesn’t need to take forever, but it does take time because relationships take time. And fundraising takes personal contact. It requires you to go out, sit down across from donors, and tell them your story. It means you have to pick up the phone, go out for breakfasts, and lead tours around your office. Fundraising is a contact sport.

Oh, and one other thing that your organization absolutely needs to understand if you want to raise more money…

Your Best Prospects are Your Current Donors and their Friends

Unquestionably, the best way to raise more money for your non-profit is to build relationships with your current donors, then to sit down with them and ask them to either upgrade their gift, make a multi-year commitment, or to introduce you to their friends, family, and business associates who might also want to get involved with the organization.

Hold non-ask events and ask your donors to bring their friends. Ask for referrals. Give your donors a reason to give more this year than last year. Don’t even think about doing any cold prospecting before you’ve hit all these bases year after year. Frankly, if you follow this strategy, it is highly likely that you won’t need to do any cold prospecting, because your funnel will already be full.

Photo Credit: Steve Boneham