So, I am inevitably asked, whom should we approach? Heck if I know, I tell them. That is your job. Mine is to help you to figure that out and then to come with best strategies for engagement.
They don’t always like that. They were hoping for a consultant with the magic rolodex (I am so dating myself here). Even if I had one, consider—how many clients would that benefit? And for how long?
It’s like the honoree for your gala. We all look for an honoree who brings with him or her a great contact list of people who will buy tables, place ads in the tribute book. And a well-connected honoree can, indeed, make your revenues look good for that year. But just try converting those event attendees into real donors. It usually doesn’t work.
The real magic rolodex is your board, other volunteers, your staff, and yes, your donors (which should include your board, volunteers, and staff). They are the ones who should be identifying potential donors and helping to figure out the best ways to engage. A huge job for board members in particular is that of opening doors. It’s one of the reasons you want real diversity on your board. You need tentacles into many different communities. If you had 10 board members and they each identified 3 new prospects, you want to end up with 30 potentials and not 5 or 6 because your board members are all hanging out in the same places.
Likewise, you really don’t want your board members asking their friends and colleagues for money. Then, if your board member leaves, typically so does the donor. What you do want is for them to introduce their friends to the organization and help others build the relationship. That way, the donor is supporting the work you do and not just helping out a friend.
Finding the right people to engage is arguably the hardest part of fundraising. And, as in romance, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find that prince. In doing so, you may just find that frogs are important, also. They do play a central role in many ecosystems. I don’t want to get too carried away here and be accused of calling donors and prospects amphibians or worse. My point merely is that the more people know about you and the more people you know, the more support you can garner for your organization.
The real magic is not any one rolodex. It is the power of many contacts and many willing ambassadors connecting interested people with the work you do.
Janet Levine works with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity, reach more donors, and build committed boards. Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the free monthly newsletter.