Over the last few weeks I have sat alongside board members, leadership and program experts in strategic planning sessions for several organizations. Something I noticed happened at nearly every gathering: I was apologizing for bringing a “revenue lens” to meetings.
The reason for the apology? I’m acutely aware that shoulders begin creeping up toward ears, eye contact dwindles and the temperature turns to ice. I understand that the word ‘money’ opens up Pandora’s Box–everyone has a different and often deep-seated experience with money. But every organization needs ‘money’ to make inroads or even solve the societal issue they are tackling.
Yes, we are talking about people, what they have and what they’ll give, but at the end of the day we’re talking about supporting programming. Unless the organization has sufficient earned income opportunities, fundraising is the way to pay for programming.
Everyone in a nonprofit organization plays a role. No one is more important than the other and we make the highest impact when we work together for a common cause. High-impact programming inspires philanthropy and philanthropy pays for high-impact programming. The idea of asking people to invest in programming that makes our society better should not turn people off. That is the best kind of revenue to talk about!
A peek behind the curtain: the joy of fundraising
Because fundraising seems to be so mysterious to my colleagues, I would like to give everyone a peek behind the curtain (although I think you’ll find there’s nothing too shocking):
- I work to identify people in the community who care about the specific problem my nonprofit is trying to solve. This person might personally invest in the organization or introduce me to others who might invest.
- I conduct some research to make sure they are interested in the organization and have funds to give–we don’t want prospects to be caught in an awkward situation when they are asked to invest.
- I bring them in to see the program at its best, discuss our challenges, get advice, get to know them, and engage in meaningful solution-oriented discussions.
- I ask them to invest.
- I thank them for supporting the noble work of my nonprofit. I show them the impact their gift made.
There’s nothing to hide and there’s nothing to apologize for. Philanthropy, whether you are raising money or giving money, is a joyful and wonderful experience.