Introduction to Fundraising - Mindset and Philosophy
Ultimately, fundraising is all about communication
You don’t want to force anyone to give - your target is to frame your cause in a way that helps your prospect find an alignment and meaning in it, that is of higher value than the money in their pocket.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Here’s a graphic of that model. Maslow revealed that people start at the base level labeled “Physiological” - covering their most basic needs - and once those are satisfied, the innate human desire is to move up to the next level.
This is why, once someone has more than what they need for food, shelter and clothing they get a hunger to experience “more” - even if they don’t know what that is, or why.
One of the most frustrating things about poverty is the lack of opportunity for people manifest their potential, because they are too busy surviving.
In contrast, think about those people who experience the greatest admiration and respect for themselves and from others - most have reached the two upper levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy...and YOU are on your way up as well!
Nonprofit Fundraising as a Path to Inviting People to Realize Their Greater Potential
At the top of the resource food chain, Maslow’s Hierarchy explains why wealthy people, once they have built their empire, helped their family, got the cars and the homes etc., get bored.
Humans are unable to “do nothing” - we see examples every day.
Many of the world’s most outwardly “successful” individuals don’t just sit on an island, sipping fruity cocktails - they often speak of “giving back”, and do things such as starting a foundation, or embark on some grand mission that redefines the latter part of their life.
Tragically, the search for meaning to life, or “self-realization/self-actualization” - which simply means fulfillment of the reason we were created - often leads people with significant resources but no direction into a life of drugs or other highways to self-destruction, instead of contribution.
Your job, as a fundraiser, is to introduce your cause, your mission, as a welcome way for the donor to add meaning to their lives - to feel they are a part of something important that they can feel great about, no matter the condition of their job, their business, their marriage or their health.
You Never Know Whose Life You’re Helping Save - Aside from your “Cause”
I recently heard someone say “I adopted my dog from the local rescue shelter - but I’m not sure who rescued who!!!”
This speaks to the transformative power of giving - those who “give” often end up receiving a gift they never expected!
Whether you ever know it or not - your action here may in fact save someone’s life, by waking them up to a higher state of being in this world, by giving them something that rekindles their belief in themselves or humankind.
I can’t think of a higher calling than waking people up and offering them hope and an opportunity to do something really big with their lives!
The Fastest Path to Cash for your New Nonprofit
Want to raise fast cash for your new nonprofit? Here’s a simple, proven way to get the most money for the least effort – hands down.
When you’re starting out, the lowest-effort/highest-yield activity is …(drum roll please)…take a guess…
- social media?
- direct mail?
Drum roll, please! The answer is….none of the above.
It’s that little device that you may be VERY familiar with - your phone.
Surprisingly though, we’re not talking about any of the incredible technology capacities of the latest and greatest gadget...this is about dialing phone numbers on your smartphone.
The fact is, instead of doing comfy things that let you “off the hook” for real-time human interaction - like texting or emailing - you need to actually use your phone for…get this…
There’s an easy principle you can apply to any relationship dynamics, regardless of raising money or just being a good family member or neighbor.
When it comes to communication method:
KEY PRINCIPLE: More personal (phone, in person) outperforms less personal (email, text, broadcast)
I’ll admit, making phone calls can be downright uncomfortable.
You may have to get out of your comfort zone to become an effective fundraiser, and this post should help you get the “escape velocity” you need to do that.
People have also become sensitized to calls bad phone etiquette: Automated calls, pushy cold-callers who don’t shut up, dinnertime interruptions, and just plain disrespect.
Therein lies another opportunity.
You’re about to stand out as one of the “better people” whom your donor prospects will encounter - they will appreciate that and it will lead to better “rapport”.
Rapport is best described as those initial “good feelings” that generally either show up in the first few seconds of a conversation - or not at all.
Ok, now that we know how we're connecting with people, let's move into the main fundraising phases.
The Two Phases of Fundraising
Phase 1) Preparation
Phase 2) Execution
NOTE: I don’t recommend you skimp on Phase 1 - to paraphrase Ben Franklin, “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of fixing it later.”
For Phase 1, Preparation - we’ll cover the easy-to-remember acrostic I use to teach Preparation for fundraising - “F.U.N.D.S”:
F is for FEAR: Confront and overcome it. In short, you’re trying to change the world and don’t have time to waste. You need to understand:
- Most people are looking for more meaning in their lives (and aren’t able to do as much as they would like in their current job, or are too busy)
- Many spend money on things they don’t need, and get less satisfaction than they would get out of knowing they helped save a child or animal
- People will gauge your belief in your cause (and key their belief as well) based upon YOUR willingness to ask for money.
U is for "USE OF FUNDS": The Problem, the Solution and Your Unique Approach. Simply make a list of the things you’d like to accomplish over the next 60 to 90 days, and tie that to the longer-term vision.
N is for NUMBER: How much hard cash in the bank do you want to have at the end of this campaign? Base this on the list you made above.
D is for DIVERSION: Set out three (3) little rewards for yourself:
- One for the first call and “ask” you complete (maybe a cookie or a special coffee drink!)
- One for your first pledge of support
- One for completing your target number of calls
- Don’t skimp on this - “gamifying” this process actually works!
S is for SPACE: High-traffic areas at home or work where you can be distracted (by pets, children, bills on the refrigerator etc.) can too easily provide excuses to “do it tomorrow.”
- Set up a quiet dedicated place and a time that will be free of interruption, even if it’s just a little chair and desk in the corner of your bedroom, or one side of your clothes closet!
*In fact, a walk-in closet can also provide an excellent way to dampen background noise!
Phase 2, Execution: Now that you’re prepared, here are the 10 Steps to Raising Nonprofit Seed Funding by Phone
Step 1: Build your “house file” - A “house file” is just a fancy word for supporter list. First, “brain dump” your list of names.
Get a piece of paper, or create a spreadsheet and make a list of names, starting with:
- Your friends
- Your friends’ parents
- Your parents
- Your parents’ friends
- Aunts, uncles, grandparents
- Current and former employers
- Scout or sports team leaders
- Civic group or church members
- Local leaders, teachers and anyone who has mentored you
- ...Or anyone else you can think of who might have more than zero dollars in their bank account.
Once you exhaust this list, start building outward by asking your supporters to introduce you or provide you a few names, and watch your network grow exponentially!
IMPORTANT: Do not avoid people based upon your perception of their interest in supporting your particular cause. Remember, the reason they give is not always because of your cause, but because it’s you. These people are your “prospects”.
Step 2: Contact Information
Look up the contact information for your House File and create your list ahead of time. Don’t rush this!
You will likely need to access different sources for different types of people on your list.
For example, you may need to obtain extended family addresses from your Mom (I did!), or pull out a printed Homeowners Association list to confirm your neighbors’ addresses.
Doing this as a dedicated mini-project will allow you to come up with a bigger list, with more complete information.
Step 3: Determine a Dollar Amount for Each Prospect
Granted, everyone lives at a different level when it comes to income. Some people live on a somewhat hand-to-mouth budget, but can still easily afford $50 or $100.
Others make a decent pay rate, have some savings or a 401k socked away, and might - just might - be willing to commit $500 or $1000.
Those who have been blessed by family or who worked hard in the right business and are retired (or still working because they like to be productive) - and are using their capital to generate wealth - can afford $5,000, even $10,000 on up to six figures.
The question you need to ask yourself is: What do you believe the person could possibly give, under the ideal circumstances, if:
- You caught them on their best day, when they were feeling extremely generous
- They found themselves aligned with your mission; and
- You presented them with an enthusiastic, well-organized compelling vision for the future and the role they could play in it
Close your eyes, and write a number down.
Remember, it’s just a number.
Now take that number and double it. Yes, double it. Write down twice as much as you believe that person can reasonably give.
That number is your “ask” amount.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with an amount, estimate how much you think they spend going out to dinner in a given month, or speculate about their car payment and multiply that number by three.
Step 4: Write your first fundraising “script”
Your fundraising “phone script” is an essential element of any fundraising effort involving personal interaction.
Just as every word in a written letter or fundraising appeal is carefully chosen, you don’t want to “wing it” and rely on personal charisma or passion alone.
There are many reasons - not everyone is charismatic, and many who are can come off in a way that repels as much money as they attract!
Passion, meanwhile, often leads founders astray - because it’s easy to lose sight that fundraising is about the person on the other side of the table, more than about you and your nonprofit!
In my experience, this step often appears as a stumbling block. I’ve helped train hundreds of newcomers to fundraising, and for many there is an instant gut reaction to resist a “script”. I understand, and completely agree!
A “script” sounds like the opposite of natural, authentic, and casual.
With all of the cheesy, high-pressure, spammy sales and marketing tactics we are bombarded with in our environment every day, I truly honor that you want to come across as “real”.
That’s WHY you need a phone fundraising script.
Rehearsal of a well-written script is exactly what will allow you to soon throw away your notes, sit back and look someone in the eye with confidence, while you become present and engaged with that person and their story.
Your script should consist of 3 main parts:
- Introduction and Rapport – Introduction and letting the person know the nonprofit you’re representing. Keep it brief, and transition to the business confidently
- Make Your Case – What your nonprofit does and why they should donate. Structure it with “The Problem”, “The Solution” and “What your nonprofit organization does and why it’s unique”. If you can give an example of how it worked, do it
- The “Close” -This is the most fear-inducing part - and the most crucial. You can stumble during the other two (people will secretly be rooting for you!) - but you have to willing to ask for the money!
If you can do that in a way that shows you believe in your own cause, your prospect will be more likely to trust you and believe in it as well!
At its core, any presentation or script must:
- Ask for a specific amount of money...
- ...for a specific project...
- ...to accomplish a demonstrable result.
It should also be brief. You have a lot of calls to make, and people are often busy, so they will respect you all the more if you do not waste their time - or yours.
Here's an example fundraising call script that you can download to get you started.
Remember, you’re not allowed to touch your reward until you’ve made at least 2 calls.
Then. Dial, follow the script and make the ask.
Then BE QUIET…let your prospect be the first one to speak after requesting the amount you wrote down...no matter how awkward it might get!
WARNING: The most uncomfortable 30 seconds of your life may also be the most rewarding - just trust the process.
Step 6: Handle the objections (and write each one down for later)
They will give you what may seem to be valid excuses. Smile, thank them for being so honest and vulnerable with you.
Acknowledge the objections - “I agree with you, it sounds like you DO have a lot of bills!”
Then, calmly ask again - this time, for half the original amount. Again do not speak first following the ask.
The third time, ask, “what can you afford?”
Step 7: Thank the “No’s”
Be generous with a verbal recognition of your gratitude for their time and consideration.
Not only is it good manners, but they might donate in the future.
Step 8: Send Remittances:
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS send online payment links or a “snail mail” package to the “Yes” and “Maybe” crowd!
It’s incredible how many miss this one!
You have to make it easy for them to donate - and it is still YOUR responsibility - not theirs - to hold them to their commitment!
Step 9: Follow Up
Every week, call the list of “Yes’s”and “Maybe’s” until you receive their funds. Do not waver - help them bring honor to themselves by expecting integrity, with no excuses.
More than half of your “official” amount of funds raised will only appear if you have solid, consistent, enthusiastic follow up!
Step 10: Thank every donor after receiving the funds
In a special, personal way from the HEART, remind them of the difference they’ve made...and do it in writing!
A thank you card/letter goes a long way, especially in this digital age. And it certainly makes it easier to ask again!
THANK YOU! That concludes this post, but there are absolutely endless ways to learn more, do more and BE more in the area of fundraising.
The procedures outlined above has helped thousands of people raise money for their nonprofits!
For a summary of everything we've covered, please download your Seed Money Magic PDF for a quick reference here.
Give it a shout and let us know your victories - and your challenges!
Also, if you're ready to start your nonprofit and you'd like everything done for you so you don't have to worry about any paperwork and details, then check out our done-for-you 501(c)3 nonprofit service.
Or, if you you're ready to get started, but you have a few questions, the please book a free strategy session here.
-Christian LeFer, Seed Money Magic: How to Raise Your First $12,000 - $100,000, InstantNonprofit