Digging for Dollars
Nonprofit organizations and ministries frequently discuss the need for additional revenue at their board meetings. Inevitably, the discussion then turns to getting “wealthy” people on the board so that they can give to the organization. The conversation often goes something like this…. “if we had so and so on our board, then our financial worries would be over,” or “if we could get a donation of x dollars, we would be set.” Unfortunately, these conversations often turn into chasing dollars and donors, a practice which often brings frustration and disappointment. Instead, follow this plan to identify potential donors.
First, stop thinking about who could give that large check. Instead, begin thinking about who is already connected with the organization or ministry. Look at your donor files to see who has consistently given to the work of the organization, have their donations increased over the years? Have they decreased? Are there are projects that really seem to attract the donor?
Look for ways to continue building the relationship with the donor. Perhaps the Executive Director could invite the donor to lunch or for a tour of the organization. It is important not to ask for money during these visits, but instead, to just spend time getting to know the person. Providing a tour and sharing the stories of the organization are key to reaching the heart of the donor. When you reach a donor’s heart, their giving will follow.
Next, conduct some research. There are several wealth screening tools that can provide you with information about the wealth of current and potential donors. These systems can give you some public-information about people including property ownership, retirement plan participants, political giving, etc. But, they cannot provide you with the inside scoop on the person. To get the details, you will need to do some detective work.
Involve your board of directors in your detective work. Spend some time at a board meeting with a list of your donors and potential donors. Ask each board member to review the list to determine who they know, or who they are connected with. It is important that this review go beyond a glance at the list, have them think about who they might know who knows someone. Our world is a small world and we are often just a “few degrees away” from connecting with people we really want to connect with.
At another board meeting, have the board work together to develop a list of people they know, are familiar with or are some other way connected with that could be interested in the work of the organization. As the list is being developed, it is quite possible that others around the table may know or be able to connect you to the people on the list.
Now armed with a list of potential donors, it is important to get to know the people. It is important to note that large donors do not generally come through direct mail solicitations. Instead, they give when they are connected to an organization, when the mission and work of the organization connects to their heart. Develop a plan to educate those on your list of potential donors about the organization. Invite them to tour the facility, or plan a dinner specifically for those on the list.
Be careful about making the mistake of requesting a donation too soon, doing so can ruin your chances of ever getting a donation. Remember, these are individuals who are frequently asked for money; as a result, they often feel that people don’t really care about them, but instead only care about what they can give. Always begin your prospecting for major donors by connecting people to the mission and work of the organization. Remember, when the heart connects, the funding will follow.