People Hate Being Asked For Money
I’ll never forget when Taylor Conroy of Change Heroes and now Journey333 said that at the beginning of …
I’ll never forget when Taylor Conroy of Change Heroes and now Journey333 said that at the beginning of a talk at one of our summits.
Clearly Taylor has a flair for the dramatic, and he certainly got the attention of a room full of fundraisers, and made me, his host, feel just a little uncomfortable.
After making sure we were all listening, Taylor went on to say that as fundraisers we need to find a higher purpose. Simply asking people for money is not motivating and will not be effective. People want to do great things. They want to be involved in making the world a better place. They want to help. They want to be someone’s hero. They are not motivated to ‘give you’ money in order to help your organization.
As soon as we, as fundraisers, can set our egos aside and get rid of our motivations for raising funds and focus on what makes our donors excited, we are unlocking a brand new potential.
The distinction is subtle but important. People don’t like being asked for money but they want to be invited to do something great. Let’s focus on giving them that opportunity.
This isn’t new thinking Henri Nouwen was making the same point years ago in A Spirituality of Fundraising, when he said: “Every time we approach people for money, we must be sure that we are inviting them into this vision of fruitfulness and into a vision that is fruitful.”
Do The Math
I’ve talked to a lot of organizations lately that seem to be frightened by the current environment and …
I’ve talked to a lot of organizations lately that seem to be frightened by the current environment and chasing a spiral down the drain.
It is difficult to raise money right now. If anyone comes to you and suggests it’s not, run. Run fast.
That said, the fundamentals have not changed. It’s still about the math. You need a big mouth on your funnel. This funnel is expanded by awareness and low-barrier asks (not for money but hand raisers). After that, you need a deliberate and well-planned path to engagement. That’s it.
So the bad news is you HAVE TO invest in putting people into the funnel. The good news is that if you do, and you pay attention to their treatment, a predictable percentage of them will support your case.
Don’t freeze in fear of how to do it. Do the math. Invest. Measure. Get it done.
In much of the world this mountainous view of the ocean would demand a million-dollar price tag, just …
In much of the world this mountainous view of the ocean would demand a million-dollar price tag, just for the view. But this is Haiti and this is the coastline that 600,000 residents of Port Au Prince came to after the earthquake nearly seven years ago.
The ‘homes’ built here were not meant to be homes. They were built as temporary shelters. “There’s a difference,” Vijonet Demero, Bethany’s Country Director for Haiti, reminds me. “They are all falling down now, yet the people have nowhere to go.”
I was warned that we were going into an area that was not safe. There could be problems because I am a white outsider.
“Look around before you get out of the truck.”
“We will always think about our quickest exit route and park so that we can easily get out if we need to.”
“Sorry, we can’t go see that family because there is a group of men gathered nearby that could create a problem.”
“The windows are blackened, so they can’t see who is inside.”
“We need to make sure we are out of this area well before dark.”
This was all part of the conversation…before we got lost. And for the record, although I was listening, I never saw anything that made me feel concerned.
The trails, paths and roads that weave this squatter community together are a maze. Even though our driver claimed to “know every road in Haiti” we got lost. And every set of directions we received contradicted the last. “This is not good,” he muttered. At night it is absolutely black. There is no electricity or running water in this region, just temporary shelters and 600,000 people. After passing the same people, signs and shelters several times, we found a bird’s eye perch and mapped a route out of the maze before dark.
“Sure, we could help them start small businesses. We could give them a loan,” says Vijonet, “but no one could pay for their products, so they’d give everything away out of compassion. How do we ask them to repay the loan then?”
What about the hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone to Haiti over the past several years? That’s too complicated for this short piece. There’s corruption, there are many reasons, but the road to hell can sometimes be paved with good intentions. Pointing over to a multi-million-dollar Olympic park that was recently built on the edge of the squatter community, Vijonet reflects, “They think that giving is always a blessing. Sometimes it’s not. They give you what you don’t need and can force it on you. This park has never been used once. The area is far too dangerous for people to travel to, and those who live here are not thinking about athletics.”
Distant view of Olympic Park
We met a family that is supported through child sponsorship but the support was only enough to send four of their five children to school. With a pained look in her eyes the mother told us which one she simply couldn’t afford to send. A choice no mother should ever have to make.
It feels like it should be solvable. But looking at the beautiful Caribbean coastline and the Olympic park and the thousands of permanent-temporary shelters, it all just feels wrong.
Talking Middle Donors Across the Globe
“Wow, I’ve been to a bunch of talks and workshops on middle donors but this is the first …
“Wow, I’ve been to a bunch of talks and workshops on middle donors but this is the first one that the presenter actually knew what he was talking about.”
That’s feedback we got after our Toronto Middle Donor workshop on May 11. And I’m not even sure how to respond.
Granted, I can shoot from the hip with the best of them. Over my career I’ve been guilty of suggesting we know more about certain topics than we actually do because I’m confident we can figure it out. But agree to give a workshop on a topic I know nothing about, dude, that’s outta my league.
I’m glad that our friend finally got the solid help he’s been looking for at our workshop. And it’s help that couldn’t have come at a better time. Truth is, acquisition and cultivation costs are rising and donors are apparently becoming more fickle. So focusing on an area that will increase revenue and produce great cost-to-income ratios makes a ton of sense.
But remember folks. Do your research to make sure your presenter didn’t sign up for the wrong session by accident!
Seriously, though, the day was good. We had a full room of people from a diverse range of agencies: international development, advocacy, hospital foundation, university, animal protection, a summer camp and a bunch of others. The case for support varied dramatically between organizations, but the challenges and experiences were remarkably consistent.
Everyone had the same questions: How do we make a case for Middle Donor investment to leadership? What’s the optimal donor file size for our donor reps. Where’s the best place to start building an effective Middle Donor program?
The thing I liked most about the day? The fundraising community is very competitive. I was standing in front of a room full of ‘competitors.’ People who might have held back, not wanting to share the recipe to their ‘secret sauce’ or admit to others that they had challenges and were not perfect. It could have been almost awkward. It wasn’t. This was a room full of people doing serious good in the world. I think everyone realized pretty early on that is was safe to share and if you are willing to give something away, you’ll get more back in return.
Following our Middle Donor Workshop in Toronto, I boarded a plane to travel to Hong Kong to train World Vision International Middle Donor reps from 11 Asian offices.
This group of fundraisers in Asia was awesome — they were experienced and engaged. I got to ‘teach’ but left thinking I’d learned as much as I taught. As Asia becomes increasingly critical in the world economy, it’s important for us to understand their cultures better, because everything we do here does not translate there. We had many good discussions about what fits and what doesn’t.
Whether East or West, both experiences reinforced what we’ve learned over the past decade focused on growing this segment for our clients — strategies and disciplines are lacking in many organizations to meet the revenue growth potential Middle Donors represent.