I was talking with a friend recently who is the Executive Director at a small non-profit. The conversation was wide-ranging, but as is almost always the case when discussing non-profits, the topic of fundraising came up. She said that she had an opening on the Board of Directors and that she was really hoping to recruit a fundraiser for the position.
I knew exactly what she meant and tapping people who are connected to philanthropic communities for board service is important, but the underlying thought is one that is pervasive–and in my opinion–dangerous for non-profits of all sizes. What lies behind that comment is that fundraising responsibility falls to one or two people within an organization. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
If you are associated with a non-profit, you are a fundraiser. Non-profits secure funding through a variety of methods, but what funding boils down to is that people believe the organization is filling some need that isn’t being addressed by other methods or organizations. Every single person, from a once a year volunteer, to an entry-level employee to the board chair, has a responsibility to help raise funds to allow the organization to continue to serve its mission.
BUT I’M NO GOOD AT ASKING FOR MONEY
When I’ve done board development or staff training workshops and fundraising comes up, I’ve often heard, “I’m no good at asking for money” Or, “I’m just not comfortable asking for money.” That’s okay. Here are some ways you can help raise money that require very little–notice I didn’t say “no” asking.”
Tell the Story
The most simple way you can help raise money for your organization, whether you are a staff person, volunteer or board member, is to tell its story. Tell your family, friends and acquaintances about the need, the successes, and the challenges. Tell them why you believe in the work you are doing. People want to support their family and friends in things they are passionate about, but if they don’t know your passion, they may never think of donating.
Use Social Media
Be sure to “like” your organization on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or other platforms. Networking works for non-profits, too. If your organization is small and doesn’t have a presence, think about volunteering to develop one. It takes some work, but a social media presence can result in significant fundraising, as well as educating people on the topic, in the long-term. If you already have a presence, share success stories or powerful posts–don’t just share the posts asking for donations–people will often skip over those.
Be a Lookout
No matter your role at an organization, be on the lookout for funding possibilities. Whether they are grants, on-line contests or individuals who mention they have a passion for your cause, many sets of eyes looking are better than one. Even if the organization has a dedicated development person, no one can catch every possibility. Once you pass along the possibility to the right person, follow-up but don’t be offended if the opportunity isn’t pursued. Staff or volunteers only have so much time and they may have reasons for not pursuing a specific opportunity.
Look among your network for people who share your passion for your cause. Recruit them to volunteer, apply for staff positions or fill empty spots on the board. By broadening the circle, you have just engaged their personal networks as possible contributors.
And Finally, Ask
Don’t be shy. Again, our personal networks want to support us in things we are passionate about. Think of the encouragement you got the last time you posted on Facebook that you were going to run a 10k or that you were struggling with something. People want to show they care about you and donating to something you care about will work for some of your connections. Remember, many people are too busy to get involved but will gladly give money to support important work with which they agree.
If you are not comfortable asking on your own, ask someone to write an e-mail, phone or social media template you can use. If you are connected to a possible major donor, but don’t want to ask, engage the Executive Director or Board Chair and set up an introduction meeting.
There are many other ways each member of the organization can help fundraise, but the key is to get everyone to make the mental shift that they are each responsible for raising money. I hope this list helps.
Want to get your staff, volunteers and board members to make this shift? True North Adventures conducts board and staff development workshops at your location. From fundraising to individual performance, we believe in the importance of non-profits and want you to perform at your very best.