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FEATURE

The Gift of the Ask

I was struck this past Christmas by something my 13-year-old son did.
Leading up to Christmas he made a …

I was struck this past Christmas by something my 13-year-old son did.

Leading up to Christmas he made a wish list, he kept running to the tree to see if his name was on a package, he talked about how excited he was to get his presents; but on Christmas morning something flipped.

When we sat around the tree to open gifts, he asked “Can I go first?” Given permission he ran to the tree and grabbed the gifts he had bought for his parents and sister and handed them out with a beaming smile on his face. Without even realizing it, he demonstrated that deep down, he was more excited about giving than getting.

I’m not sure why fundraisers often feel bad about asking for money. Perhaps they feel like it cheapens the relationship. Remember, your gift to your Donors is asking them for money. You are giving them a gift that will give them that beaming smile.

“I ask for money standing up, not bowing down because I believe in what I am about. I believe I have something important to offer.” (Henri J.M. Noewen, A Spirituality of Fundraising).

– Cam

Read more 01/02/2017

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.”

– Cam

Read more 11/07/2016

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.

– Cam

Read more 09/22/2016

Million-Dollar View

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.

– Cam

Read more 08/10/2016
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