Recently, I told someone that yes, I would definitely go on their website and make a small gift. I didn’t. Not because I didn’t mean to, but, frankly, it got lost in all the other things I needed to do.
That might have been the end of it. Perhaps some time hence, I would have remembered my promise and fulfilled it. More likely, if I thought about it at all, I would have been sure that I had, indeed, done what I said I would do. But that wasn’t the end. A week after my promise, the Board chair called.
“Are you at a computer?” she asked. I wasn’t. “When will you be?” I told her that I was headed back to my office, so in about 45 minutes.
A few minutes after I unlocked the door, my phone rang. “You there yet?” she asked. Yes, I told her, smiling. I love it when clients follow my advice!
Not very long story short, she walked through getting to the site and the donate page—which I kept telling her I could do all my lonesome, but she is a very determined woman—and making my gift.
Afterward, we talked about what it felt like on her end. In a word, she said, “empowering.” She was helping me to be a part of something that is really important to her and which has become important to me, also.
Oftentimes, when I work with organizations on fundraising issues, and especially when I speak with boards about their fundraising responsibilities, I don’t get out the door without an ask. And, typically, I thank them for the opportunity, but I cannot support them all. This particular group did a whole bunch of things differently.
At the retreat where we were talking about fundraising, every single board member talked about his or her passion for the work and impact of the organization and their desire to cut their discomfort with fundraising so they could ensure that the organization had the financial ability to do that work. That impressed me. I see a lot of organizations that do fantastic work and a lot of good board members, but often if they understand that they have to fundraise they see it as a necessary evil rather than something of value—to the organization, the clients or the cause, and very much so to the donor.
After the retreat but before our follow up meeting, I got progress reports and the excitement of the board was palpable. They were excited that they were on a path that would help the organization. They let me know how many asks, how many yeses and—tellingly—how many thank yous they each experienced. And then the Board chair called me and asked me if I would consider joining her, 100% of the board, the executive director and the 40 other people who had made a gift since our retreat. I admit it—I hedged. Much as I want to support most of the organizations with whom I work, I just can’t, and so I almost always say no thank you.
Remembering that in fundraising (if not in other areas of life!) no is not always no, she told me that she did understand and she wanted me to know that my gift (not a large gift, mind you) would…and then she again told me the impact that charitable giving has on and with the organization.
If every one of the board members is as persistent and persuasive as she is, those 40 other people will quickly become 400.
I am, of course, pretty sure that my relationship with the board earned me some special treatment. But I am equally sure that every prospect sees the passion and commitment that each and every board member brings, and that passion and commitment helps each board member to follow up, making sure that verbal commitments turn into actual gifts, and hesitation is given a chance to ripen into a positive response.
And then, once there is a yes, making sure that the donor is not neglected until the next ask but, rather, followed up with regularly and shown the impact the gift has made and the value of his or her support.
Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity, and build stronger boards. Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for her monthly newsletter.