Friday February 3, 2012
What qualities make a good fundraiser?
Not-for-profits seek out companies like The Goldie Company not only because they need fundraising expertise, but because they also understand how much an outsider’s point of view can revitalize their organizational strategies.
Many not-for-profit board directors and staff have prepared themselves with education, and they have the dedication to devote long hours to lead their cause. But this determination and commitment may not always include a clear understanding about raising money.
So how can not-for-profit leaders ensure the sustainability of their organization and its ability to serve its stakeholders and field?
Enter the qualified fundraiser. Fundraising, however, is only a part of the story that connects all the ways a not-for-profit is organized.
What exactly should not-for-profit board members and staff keep in mind when considering who to contract to help them raise money? What is involved? A simple list of the essentials includes (1) the ability to communicate comfortably within a network, (2) comfort around framing “the Ask” and how that is presented to key stakeholders, and (3) writing skills, including a general understanding of effective communication practices.
A good fundraiser understands what donors need to see in order to maximize their willingness to give.
Networking Skills and Organizational Capacity
A fundraiser must be comfortable with people—at ease dealing with a whole host of stakeholders and galvanizing their interests to form a commonality around the not-for-profit and its reason for being. And a good fundraiser will draft a checklist detailing what an organization needs to do so it can use the money it receives effectively. These two skills combined are vital for maximizing fundraising outcomes.
The fundraiser also inspires stakeholders to champion their organization’s cause and convince their peers to get involved. A good fundraiser inspires these people to work together to form—and then carry out—a cohesive plan. The fundraiser helps stakeholders articulate their organization’s case in a compelling, persuasive way to their fellow stakeholders, fine-tuning the message and attracting the greatest levels of support.
Comfort with “The Ask”
Of course, fundraising does not start with asking for money. It starts with conversations—building relationships between people, and exploring and establishing common ground. People don’t donate to organizations so much as they donate to people who represent the interests they both share.
A good fundraiser knows how to identify the different groups of people within an organization and how willing they are to make the Ask. Those who are unwilling to make the Ask may fulfill other purposes; for example, conducting prospecting work and organizing the database. Those who are somewhat willing to make the Ask can be trained by the fundraiser to be more comfortable in that context.
Writing and Communication Skills
Fundraising involves an array of orchestrated communications approaches, which require consistency and refinement to work together. Good writing is the score of that orchestration. Because every organization is different, a good fundraiser can evaluate and write about an organization in a way that appeals to those who care the most about its survival and progress.
Is the direct mail campaign reaching the target audience with the right key points? Is the social networking message appropriate to that medium? Are the volunteers equipped with the information they need to champion that case with consistent messaging? Does the advertising copy for the fundraising events inspire stakeholders to participate? Does the message target the key constituencies and ensure the best chance for success? These are just some of the questions a good fundraiser will be asking.
With a well-written Case and a commitment to reasonable goals, a good fundraiser can help any organization better engage its target audience and realize its ideals. A good fundraiser can match those who care about something to the tools and resources needed to make it happen.
Many not-for-profits close their doors each year because they lack the organization, communication and support to justify their existence and their growth. Picking the right fundraiser to help your organization grow is a critical choice.
By Douglas E. Newton