The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

I know we have all heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side,” but I recently heard someone say instead “The grass is always greener where you water it.” This is truth! How often are we a little envious of how well things are going for another person, or another organization? Do we stop to think about what things that person or organization might be DOING to have that success?

In working with nonprofit organizations for about 20 years, I consistently hear these types of envious remarks. Almost every organization I have ever worked with thinks it’s harder for them to raise money than it is for anyone else. They have lots of reasons – the other organization has a cause that’s easier to understand, more urgent, more tangible, more…whatever. They see another organization announce a large gift or grant or successful campaign and think, “I wish we could get money that easily.”

But is it really EASY for anyone? I don’t believe that to be true. The best predictor of long term, sustained fundraising success is developing relationships with donors over time. You have to find the people who care about your cause and then you have to communicate what you’re doing to make a difference for that cause. You have to tell your story in a way they can understand your impact, not just your outcomes. You have to thank them for being involved. And you have to do this over and over. Consistently. Like you water your grass.

Every organization has unique benefits and unique challenges. Maybe they are raising money for sick children…but maybe they also have to raise millions every year like a never-ending capital campaign. Maybe they have a strong membership base…but maybe they also struggle to convince members to donate above and beyond membership fees. The organizations that continue to succeed are working consistently to address their unique challenges and develop relationships with donors over time. They DON’T get by easily just because of their unique benefits.

Next time you find yourself thinking another organization gets donations more easily than you do, stop yourself, and think about how much that organization is watering their grass to get the green.

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Individual Giving

Donors, Fundraisers, and #MeToo

Did you know that 1 in 4 female fundraising professionals faces sexual harassment on the job? And that 65% of those women say that the Perpetrator was a Donor? I recently read the results of a survey done by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Chronicle of Philanthropy on the prevalence of sexual harassment in our industry, and the results were eye-opening.

I realize this is a tough topic. But before you move on, I ask that you don’t assume this problem doesn’t apply to you or your organization. As fundraising professionals, we are often surrounded by individuals with more power than we have, like donors, board members, and supervisors. Sometimes that power dynamic creates an environment with frequent opportunities for sexual harassment to occur.

The #MeToo movement has gained momentum and drawn attention to the prevalence of this problem in our society as a whole. In fact, the Time’s Up Fund to Fight Sexual Harassment has raised $21 million around the world in a matter of weeks.

This has the result of helping victims, including those in the fundraising profession, to feel more willing to share their experience with leadership, and to expect an appropriate response. Is your organization prepared for that scenario? If not, here are some steps you can take to be more prepared:

1. Talk about it. Share the results of this study with your leadership, your staff, and your board members. Say out loud that sexual harassment will not be tolerated at your organization, no matter who the Perpetrator is.

2. Create a process. Do your Human Relations policies tell an employee what to do if they have been a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace? If not, create a process for them to follow and make your employees aware of it. Also consider creating a crisis response PR plan you could follow if your organization is suddenly put in this spotlight.

3. Attend a training. Learn what you should do if you witness or experience harassment and how to respond if someone shares with you that they have been a victim. Some training opportunities are available with Zoe Training.

4. Say goodbye. Maybe you have a board member or major donor who is actually a Perpetrator of sexual harassment. These actions may lead to that person leaving the board or taking their donations somewhere else. Be okay with this possibility! You’re better off creating a safe environment for yourself and your employees, even if you lose donations as a result.

These are steps you can take now. Better to take them before a crisis than during or after. And even if you never have a crisis, the intangible benefit of a better culture for your staff is worth it!

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Fundraising Mistakes, Learning Opportunities

Can you help us find people with a lot of money?

I actually get asked this quite a bit. And the short answer is – no! My job is to help your organization to better understand fundraising best practices, not to play donor to organization matchmaker. And remember that part about fundraising being all about relationships? Why do we forget all about that when we want to ask someone with a lot of money to support our cause?

Whether someone has a lot of money is not the only thing you should care about. When determining who you should focus your energy on for major gifts, you should be considering three things, or LAI: Linkage, Ability and Interest.

Linkage – Does this person have some link to your organization? Does anyone in your current network have access to this individual? Has this person ever heard of your organization?

Ability – Yes, it is helpful to know whether someone has the ability to give. But remember that this is only one of the three things we’re looking for.

Interest – Does this person care about what you care about? Sure, you can ask anyone. But if you want to spend your time wisely, you will ask people who have shown an interest in charitable giving, and specifically, and interest in what you care about.

When you look at all three of these, it becomes much more obvious who you should spend your time on when it comes to major gifts. Try going through your list of “prospects” and give each of them a subjective score in each of these areas. Spend your time on those with the highest total score when you add all three together.

But make sure you don’t forget about your existing donors. They have the highest possible score in at least two of the three areas. Don’t make the mistake of throwing away a donor who has direct linkage to and specific interest in your organization, just because they don’t have as much ability as that person with a lot of money.

So, no, I can’t help you find people with a lot of money. But chances are, you can help yourself find people who will really be dedicated to your organization long term by using this LAI formula. Remember that next time a board member says you should be asking Oprah or Bill Gates for money!

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes, Individual Giving