Giving Compass' Take:

• Tori O’Neal-McElrath, writing for Blue Avocado, shares advice on fundraising and what the expectations are from major gifts and development staff.  

• Why is it problematic to treat fundraising like a sales job? 

• Read about the success of in-kind fundraising. 

I’ve had the privilege of working on both sides of the desk in philanthropy: serving in fundraising and communications positions with nonprofits, and in staff and consulting capacities for grantmaking institutions. A few things I’ve heard repeatedly from program officers and major donors are:

  1. They feel like development staff are always trying to sell them something. The conversations have a “used car salesperson” feel to them, rather than an authentic engagement.
  2. Donors expect fundraisers to be able to answer basic questions about the program or service. When development staff are not deeply connected to the programs and services—when their passion for the work does not come through in an authentic way—once again it feels like sales.
  3.  Hearing from fundraisers only when you’re making an ask reduces what could be an authentic partnership into a transactional relationship—one that is ultimately easier to walk away from.

I submit that the science, art, and “magic” of fundraising should be built on a foundation of true belief:

  • Belief in your organization’s ability to make an impact;
  • Belief in those your organization serves; and
  • Belief in the funder and their desire to create change in partnership with your organization.

So, what does all of this add up to? Foundation staff and individual philanthropists are people first. They want to be seen and approached as human beings, not cash machines.

Some real world, hands-on advice in this regard:

  1. Approach your conversations with funders and donors with enthusiasm for your organization and its work that is grounded in realness.
  2. Ask them what they think and be genuinely interested in what they have to share.
  3. Treat your funders and donors as partners in the work.
  4. Know your stuff! Be able to speak beyond the talking points about your organization’s work.

Read the full article about fundraising by Tori O’Neal-McElrath at Blue Avocado