I once worked with an environmental nonprofit who appeared to have their fundraising (development) act together: they had a bulletproof strategy, multiple income sources for generating funds, great people, a solid database plus the skills to use it effectively; but they were still coming up short. What was wrong? The organization was reluctant to embrace what is at the core of fundraising – the art and skills of sales.
“Yuk!” you say. Believe me, I understand the revulsion to sales. Sales are often associated with a sleazy or annoying person that pressures others into spending money on things they do not want or cannot afford. Sadly, we have all experienced this sinister side of sales when purchasing a car, which leaves the purchaser mentally frustrated, physically exhausted, and feeling emotionally cheated.
The true art of salesmanship is not about cheating anyone, it is about common goals; for a nonprofit, these goals help donors achieve something that is emotionally fulfilling, and that helps to further your organization’s mission.
The primary skill that nonprofits need help with is actually asking for money. Many people are timid about this, but to close-the-loop on all of your hard work, you must ask.
A frustrated donor once said to me,
“I love this organization, they do fantastic work, but my time is important. Whether I am wined and dined at a gala, or attend a small event, I know that at some point I will be asked to make a donation, and I’m OK with that. But too often they don’t ask. I am given hints and suggestions about writing a check, but never a direct request. … To me it’s about respect – for me personally; for my time – my money. If I‘m not asked directly, I either give less than I should, or I just don’t donate.”
Just remember that asking for money is not about you; it is about asking for money to help the nonprofit – an important mission that needs funding to succeed.
Do not be afraid to ask donors for financial help. The process of mastering the art of skills of sales takes time, be patient, do your homework, and when the time is right, ask.