Talking the Talk--What to Say When Fundraising

Most board members and not a few Executive Directors spend a lot of time looking for those magic words that they can say that will encourage others to whip out wallets and give generously. But it's not a set of words but, rather an attitude that sets the stage for sharing of information about the organization and the potential donor First is how you think about fundraising. Do you worry about hitting on people, making a pest of yourself, impinging on a friendship? Or do you honestly see it as providing an opportunity for someone to become (more) involved with a fantastic organization, a gift you give to the potential donor, a benefit that will provide far more to them than they will give to you?

Secondly is how you think about what your organization does. And, really, it's not about the activities--those are how you do what you do. What you do is far more profound. Yes, yes--you feed the hungry, provide low-or-no cost medical, dental or psychological services, you teach the young, entertain the old....but what are you actually doing?

Think about it this way: Are people really giving you funds to put on three seminars to teach at risk youth about social skills or do they give because you are opening doors for these young people and introducing them to a world of possibilities? When you think about your organization, what is it that makes you come back to sit through interminable board meetings, take a lower salary, do the work you do?

So why are you pussyfooting around?

You want to get together with someone to tell them about the difference your organization makes on a daily basis and hope that they will want to be part of this magic? Why not simply tell them, "I really want to get together with you and share some of the wonderful things we do in the hopes that you will be motivated to join with us in some way." Or more specifically, "To give generously so we can enhance our work."

And when you meet, remind them why you are there, and then ask them some questions. If they are involved in some way with your organization, ask them what moves them the most. How did they get involved? What means the most to them?

If they are a newbie, ask them if they are involved with another nonprofit and why they have chosen to support that organization.

Then tell them why you are involved. What you love the most. Gauge their interest. And then ask them for something--a gift, a referral, another meeting, a willingness to take a tour. Know beforehand what outcome you want and guide the conversation to that end.

Above all, don't be bashful. Tell them what you hope they will want. Notice I didn't say to tell them what you want. Let's be frank here: it's not about you and who cares what you want? It is about your donor and what they want--and how you can help them get it.