Fundraisers don’t ask for money, we offer opportunities. – Doug Lawson

This is one thing heartfelt cause-driven nonprofits often leave out of their thinking.   Asking for money is really not about what you can get.  It’s about what you are offering your donor, in the way of a social engagement, an opportunity to make a tangible or direct difference for someone, an opportunity to engage in a community they would otherwise not have access to, all kinds of opportunities the list is endless.   Instead, amateur fundraisers still give out their need-based cry of  “HELP US!”  and the donors all say… “Again?”

We have now entered the Social Media era, which is experience driven, so, offering books, calendars, chachkis will only work on the over 60 crowd and I guess a couple of other people who like ‘stuff’.   But, for the rest of us we want to KNOW our dollars did SOMETHING.  So, include us in an experience, take us with you on a service run whether by video or by an authentic photo in our thank you letter.   Show us THE toothbrush you handed a homeless person and some smiles.   Let us choose the country we are going to provide assistance to.   This kind of donor care takes effort, but it can save you millions in postage in no response Direct Mail letters.

Your donors are worth attending to.  The average online gift is $83 dollars.   You can offer your donors a much higher level of participation by connecting to them online.   At the very least, establish a competent task force that begins to move your organization to creative, high level, on-line donor participation.  It will really provide a higher level of creative stewardship and donor appreciation in all of your fundraising programs.

In true social media form I’m stealing a post from Barbara Talisman, who borrowed her gems for her post from Author and Fundraising Veteran, Doug Lawson.  Enjoy and learn from two pinnacles of fundraising on The How of being a Great Fundraiser.  http://talismantol.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/great-fundraiser-2/

To Be a Great Fundraiser – Thanks Douglas Lawson

July 8, 2010 <!–Barbara Talisman–>

Continuing on my thoughts about being a great fundraiser, I have been inspired by a generous sharer Chris Brogan in the previous post and today by an icon in the nonprofit sector, Dr. Douglas M. Lawson, Founding Chairman of Lawson Associates, Inc.

I had the great, good fortune to hear Dr. Lawson speak about the art of being a great fundraiser. This is not the first time I heard Doug speak. I was fortunate to learn from him early in my fundraising career. I have a resource file and STILL have a copy of his article “The Artful Asker” published in Fund Raising Management, April 1996. It is one resource I have kept all these years because it stands the test of time. Doug writes about what makes a successful major gift fundraiser. And if you have not read his book, More Give to Live: How Giving Can Change Your Life, get it and read it now!

To follow up from my post on Nonprofit Fundraising = Confidence and Conviction – Doug shared his vast experience and inspired ideas about how and what it takes to be a great fundraiser. (Italics are my additions)

Doug shared what he thinks (and I agree!) are the skills needed to be a great fundraiser:

  • It’s helpful to have a humanities background
  • Some finance background is good – But can certainly be learned
  • Sales and marketing focus – We must be able to communicate our message effectively
  • Life of giving is necessary – This rule must start with us. How can we ask, train or empower others to give when we have not done so ourselves or can understand the power and feeling you get from making a gift that makes a difference?

Doug says GREAT fundraisers:

  • Listen more than they talk – It is ALL about donor interests and we need to find out what they are.
  • Participate in cultivation and solicitation process – As well as supporting, train and lead volunteers
  • Inspire and inform – Doug talks about offering opportunities – not about asking for a gift.
  • Experience the joy of giving – see above on a life of giving

Doug inspired and engaged me while he talked. He shared generously of his experiences, mistakes and successes. One of his many pearls of wisdom,

“Fundraisers don’t ask for money, we offer opportunities.”

It was like a lightning bolt – for many years I have said we (fundraisers) offer opportunities and education. NOW I remember, it was Doug Lawson who said the same thing at a session I attended when I was a new fundraiser many, many years ago. It stuck in my brain. At the time, I may not have fully comprehended what he was saying. Today, I know what it means, practice offering opportunity all the time and inspire volunteers, leaders and donors to do the same.

If you see Doug Lawson on a conference roster, hear about him speaking somewhere near you – run, do not walk, to learn from him! He is a great fundraiser and generous speaker. I have always been energized, excited and honored to be a fundraiser – Doug reminded me why.

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