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Fear Not! Fundraising Can Be Very Rewarding

Fear-Not-Fundraising

Fear Not! Fundraising Can Be Very Rewarding

By Dan Kimball, Aplos Software

fundraising websites for a nonprofit organization or faith-based ministry can be hard. Sometimes really hard. Most of the people I know in the nonprofit world did not dream of becoming a fundraising professional. They did not want a degree in how to ask people for money to keep my job either. In fact, many people who lead or run nonprofits and churches will say how much they hate the fundraising part of their job. If you've ever felt this way, or you are currently hiding in Starbucks from your board trying to avoid this topic? take a deep breath and relax. You are not alone and you are not bad at your job if you dislike fundraising.

My fundraising journey began when I was working for a local nonprofit that focused on drug and alcohol prevention for teens. I loved working with students, I loved the mission of the organization, and I was passionate about the work we did. Then one day my boss informed us the funding we were receiving from the State of California was about to be reduced significantly and that we needed to come up with other funding sources. I felt tricked (or I got the short straw!) because they suddenly gave me the title of Development Director; a Greek word translating to 'guy who goes and asks for money.'

So, off I went to speak with service clubs, bridge groups, and women's tea parties. I basically talked to anyone who was willing to hear me speak about our nonprofit for 15 minutes to discuss the difference our nonprofit was making. A few months and an extra few pounds from the desserts later, we started to see an increase in donations from community groups and individuals. Now, I cannot say I loved fundraising at that point yet, but I really enjoyed telling our story, especially to students who felt our program was helping make them better people. At some point during this time I began to realize that fundraising was more about sharing stories than it was about asking for money. It became the fundamental core for my entire approach as a fundraising professional, long before I went to a fundraiser's conference or read a book on "Dialing for Dollars".

Fast forward to 2017, and after 21 years I have had the opportunity to work with both big and small shop, as a paid employee and as a volunteer, and not much has changed in my approach to ask for money. Sure, I have been to some excellent trainings, learned from some amazing fundraising experts, and have been blessed to have worked in jobs where my entire focus was fund development, but my overall approach has not changed all that much.

The fact is, if you identify the right people and tell the right story at the right time, almost anyone can have success in raising money for their organization - paid or volunteer.

Though there is a tax advantage in the United States for people giving to 501c3 Organizations, I have come to the conclusion that most people don't do it for the tax write-off. They seem to give because they want to make a difference, or they heard a compelling story that moved them to a place of action. If you can work with this idea in mind, I really think fundraising will become a more enjoyable part of your role, especially if you dread it. If you're one of the crazy few like myself who love this part of your job, then keep on doing what you're doing and people will naturally follow the passion and enthusiasm of your core mission.

I am reminded of a quote in an interview I read a while ago with Bethany Hamilton, the now famous surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack:

" In my first weeks at home, my family and I experienced an outpouring of aloha. For those who make Hawaii their home, aloha means much more then hello and goodbye. It goes back to the old Hawaiian traditions, and it means a mutual regard and affection of one person for another without any expectation of something in return. It means you do something from the pureness of your heart."

This is a great reminder to nonprofit and church leaders that you are approaching people to become engaged in your mission and the work you do so that they can make a difference - and not because there is something in return. People will see your heart and passion for your organization if you are authentic and tell them what a difference their partnership can make.

There are lots of excellent resources out there on fundraising strategies (and fundraising management), trends, best practices, and training materials that you can read up on. However, try and keep in mind that fundraising really is about some very simple and practical steps:

  • Go.
  • Find People.
  • Have Conversations.
  • Listen.
  • Share your heart and passion.
  • Agree on a plan that results in a measurable impact.
  • Celebrate the victories.
  • Support each other in the midst of failure.
  • Then do it again...and again... and again.

Happy Fundraising in 2017.

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Posted on: 04/24/2017
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