by Carola Barton
Years ago after speaking to a community service group about a non-profit I was working for, one of the audience members told me that I could sell sand in the Sahara – not a new figure of speech, but the comment stayed with me because, in fact, I hadn’t been trying to sell anything – simply to tell the story. In my experience those who are best able to create the desire to give, whether of financial resources, time, connections or ideas, are those who have taken the story of the organization and its beneficiaries into their own hearts and learned how to share this understanding with others.
Whether you are a board member, volunteer, or staff member of a non-profit, the following are some questions and ideas which may help with the art of fundraising.
Questions to ask yourself:
Ideas to help you to enjoy the experience of raising funds:
Why do most people give? Because someone asked them! When you ask, you are giving your friend/colleague the opportunity to participate in something greater than himself. People will most likely think more of you for this, not less.
Each potential supporter is a person like yourself – at this moment you are most likely on someone else’s list. Treat this person as you would like to be treated – with direct communication, good information, and as a partner working for the greater good. You have the privilege of asking; your partner has the privilege of giving and experiencing the associated good thoughts and feelings.
Funding a nonprofit organization is nearly always seen as an investment by the funder. When an organization asks for a gift —”Please give us a grant to accomplish such-and such an outcome” — the organization, whether it knows it or not, is seeking a one-sided exchange of values. In contrast, when an organization seeks an investment — “Please invest in our organization so that together we can accomplish such-and-such an outcome” — it invites the funder to share responsibility for the desired outcome. By changing the paradigm, the organization alters both the perception of the request and the manner in which investors and organizations are treated, becoming the most desirable relationship, which is a partnership.
Solicitation teams are often best, such as Board and staff member – each has a different perspective and together can address issues in a holistic way. Many times Board members or volunteers feel uncomfortable with perhaps not having all of the organizational details available to field questions, but the staff member will have them. The volunteer has the advantage of doing this work without compensation, and may have high prestige in the community.
Speak to what the investor wants and needs, not just on what the organization does. Funders want to believe that they are valued, that their resources are well-used and appreciated, and that they are “making a difference”.
Worthy causes alone — “feed the hungry,” “shelter the homeless,” “care for the sick” — do not raise money. Presented as abstractions, they often raise more questions than they answer. People give to people and like to know the story and specifics.
Investments are requested; they do not just show up. And yet this fact often is the hardest one to accept. We will do practically anything to avoid asking for the money. Sitting with a prospect after conversations preparing for this moment and having worked hard to make a compelling case for support, many will hesitate to say, “We’re talking about $50,000 a year for the next five years. Can you do that?” It’s also good to give a frame of reference: “Several others have recently given $25,000 to this superb organization and we are hoping you will do the same”. If something not specified, the risk is that the investment will be far smaller than is actually possible for the investor.
Through the process, you will have the opportunity to connect with interesting people, and they will have the same with you, all in the service of a mission you are passionate about —isn’t that terrific? A win for everyone!]]>
Copy Editing: It’s Not Just About Punctuation
By Alison Lueders
One of my very wise clients told me, “You see PEOPLE, not just their punctuation. That’s priceless.” She expressed an idea that hadn’t even formed for me yet.
Writing about your work or program is a very personal process. You must articulate what you offer, why it’s important, and why potential donors or clients should choose you over all the other options out there. That’s hard, because your organization or business is a reflection of you.
To me, copy editing is not just rules and mechanics, although that’s part of it. It’s about paying attention to your written words, listening closely to what you say, and aligning all that into short, expressive copy that resonates with your audience. That takes a bit of skill, a bit of art, and a whole lot of understanding who you are. It means knowing the rules, but applying them with judgment and respect.
Here are some tips on preparing your content, and on knowing when to share it with us. (Hint: sooner rather than later!)
Preparing your Content
Content comes in many flavors and can serve many purposes. Before writing anything for your business, ask yourself:
If you can answer these questions clearly in your own mind, that makes writing easier.
“Let go” of the content when you:
The content development process
In most cases, clients come with a draft in hand that needs a fresh pair of eyes and some polishing. In some cases, a client feels “I don’t know where to begin” with regards to writing their organization’s content. In either case, there’s an initial interview with the client to understand the answers to the four questions above, and to identify any other key considerations in developing the content. A brief email summarizing that interview is sent to the client for confirmation as soon as possible. Then calls and emails are scheduled as needed, depending on what the work requires.
When starting with your draft, I don’t re-write your content so that it’s unrecognizable to you. You know your organization best, and I want to keep your “authentic voice”. But expressing the benefits of your business or nonprofit in writing, in a professional manner, is a separate skill. My goal is to ensure that what you say is correct, clear and compelling. Doing that is a collaborative effort between us.
It’s also a respectful process. I am amazed at clients who say to me privately, “I feel stupid”. Do you feel stupid when you go to a doctor for a diagnosis or to a lawyer to draw up a contract? I enjoy what I do, but more importantly, I want YOU to enjoy – and feel safe – working with me. A great piece of content is a beautiful thing, but it’s rarely a solo production. We will make it happen – together!]]>
Posted by Cari Class
I had the opportunity to meet Jacqueline Novogratz in Oct of 2011 at a gathering of women change agents in my home community of Santa Cruz, California. First of all, I was honored to be included in the short list of 20 women and community leaders invited to this small group session to meet with someone I held in such high esteem. Jacqueline is a globally recognized thought-leader supporting break through ideas in poverty alleviation through her work with Acumen Fund. Second of all, it was a dream come true because Jacqueline’s book, “The Blue Sweater, Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World“, had rocked my world when I read it the year earlier. I am a huge fan. I hadn’t read a book armed with a yellow highlighter and dozens of Post-it notes since college. I lovingly took my well-worn, dog-eared book to have her sign it at the talk she gave to a larger group later in the evening. What a thrill for me! If you are interested in international development—this book needs to be on your “must read” list.
The impending event was pivotal for me. For a long while I had felt there was something else I needed to be doing. I was restless and frustrated but had not been able to wrap my mind around a vision for “what was next” for me. Then it was as if the curtain was pulled back and everything was revealed. Even the poster promoting her upcoming presentation was titled the “What’s Next” lecture series, sponsored by my own co-working place of business, NextSpace. Well, that was what was NEXT for me. Why not take everything I had been deeply immersed in for the last five years through my work with Dining for Women, and combine it with my skills in design communication? Facilitating social change on a daily basis is where my true passion lies and what excites me about getting up in the morning. I have a deep, unrelenting desire to make a difference in the world for good, and to spend the rest of my life using my time and talents to do so. But to make the package whole and complete, the perfect plan was partner with other change agents who shared my intensity and vision for a better world and who had expertise in nonprofit development. That was it! And from there, Ripple Effect Group was born. It is my intention to use this driving force inside me to work with other visionaries to help them realize their goals of changing the world for good.]]>