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Have you ever had a friend who worked as a professional fundraiser who approached you about a (major) gift for an organization that you don't normally support? 

Since this hasn't happened to me yet, I'm not sure how it feels - was it uncomfortable? completely welcome?







What I have seen before are charities who ask about a fundraiser's personal connections in the donor community. "Did you work with donor X in previous role and would you be able to approach them and others on behalf of new charity?" To me, that question is a huge red-flag for me as a professional.

To be honest, I'm not sure what others have experienced and whether my position is the correct one, but I want to share my own thoughts on this - with the strong caveat that what I'm talking about here is a very small number of charities and fundraisers/consultants and I'm mainly focused on significant donations.

ASK BETTER

It's not easy to find the right fundraiser or consultant. You are looking to hire someone who is not only professionally competent (in a profession that is not always well-understood by the general public) but who can represent a cause-based brand in a compelling way. 

I would suggest to organizations that they should be looking for a fundraiser who is extremely well-connected. BUT, the key here is in which circle.

Fundraisers with lots of personal friends are not as valuable for your organization as fundraisers with lots of professional connections in the non-profit sector. LinkedIn is a good place to glimpse at this network, but don't forget to dig deeper and look at relevance of contacts vs. sheer number. My development contacts on the site are more important in this case than my mortgage broker.

A strong professional network means that the person can grab legal information, a second opinion on a strategy or a form/template/document in minutes. This helps me to do my work better, faster and cheaper and to understand how I can keep the organization I represent operating within the standards set by the non-profit industry nationally.

Personal friends, and even powerful or wealthy ones, might give for a time to causes I ask them to support, but ultimately, they are giving to support me rather than the organization. How many times have we seen organizations that were 'on a roll' with their programs until that 'great fundraiser who knew everyone' moved on along with his/her rolodex?

Charities should be looking for individuals who will take a look at the donors, volunteers and advocates that they already have and the new friends they might want to make and be able to identify, sort, initiate, build and manage those friendships. When I see a list of existing donors that have not been engaged at a high level, what I offer the organization is the ability to prioritize and develop those relationships. My practice is to act as a matchmaker and build long-term connections in the community that don't rely on my personal relationships.


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GIVE SMARTER

Let's face it, we're more likely to be interested in learning about something because a friend approaches us about it and tells us why it's important to them. 

But, there's a boundary here that needs to be drawn.


When a board member or volunteer who you know makes an intro to you about a charity or campaign and then passes you into the hands of the fundraiser to make the case and ask for support, there is a chance to step away from your personal relationship with the board member. It allows the decision to become donor-centered and based on the fit with the cause. You can say "no" and not lose face. You can hold the fundraiser accountable and not your friend for the use of your gift.

Evaluating "friendraising" as a donor is another good indicator of whether you should be investing in a particular cause. Has the charity hired your friend to drum up business from his/her personal contacts as their main activity? If so, then consider carefully whether this is a sign for you that this organization's mission can stand on its own or whether it rests on your friend's reputation? What happens when you're friend moves on? Will you continue to receive donor reports and contacts? What are they doing to invest themselves in building direct relationships that will be lasting and sustainable? How does that reflect on how the rest of the organization is being built and managed?

What do you think? How do you draw the lines between friendships and fundraising/giving (especially when it comes to major gifts)?
 
 

Great fundraising involves exceptional planning 

and an artistic execution
Swiss architect Le Corbusier Venice, 1952


Today, I would like to share two great pieces that came across my desk in the past week. One is about capital campaigns and the other is about consultants to charity - since a lot of charities hire consultants to lead them through the campaign process, these seemed like a good fit.

The 10 Pillars of Great Relations Between Charities and Consultants

Working on a campaign together is not a short-haul project. It's a relationship for everyone involved and like all other relationships, communication and respect have to be at the heart of making it work. The Agents of Good have taken a solid stab at identifying the elements that need to be in place for everyone to feel satisfied.

I probably feel most strongly about the need for conversation and I would suggest that anyone looking to hire a consultant should feel that they are bringing on a person that they can have honest and frank (and sometimes difficult) conversations with.

Running a Successful Capital Campaign

This article was a real keeper because it gives a good overview of the key elements that need to be in place when approaching a capital campaign. I especially agreed with this point:

In the 90s people gave to institutions, in the early 2000s, they gave to projects.

Today, it’s about impact. So when positioning your story, make sure you indicate how your project will make a difference in the community it’s meant to serve.


Much of the rest of what was suggested can be summarized to say that successful capital campaigns involve heaps of strategic planning. Do people want to give, why should they give, who to ask, when to ask, what to ask for, how to say thanks...these are the big questions that come first. It's why communication with your consultant is so important - getting through the process of asking and answering these questions involves a lot of conversations and a realistic set of expectations on both sides. 

We don't need Planned Gifts, it's a capital campaign...

Another question that I think belongs in any capital campaign is about "what happens in ten years from now? How does the financial future of this organization look? What can we be doing now in this campaign to create that reality?"

It's where I think legacy gift planning has a place in current dollar campaigns. 

Those bequest commitments may not do much in terms of meeting current needs, but when the relationship building happens now (and preferably seamlessly with the campaign fundraising), there is a better chance that sustainable support for the charity will be in place down the road.

The debate about how to count and recognize legacy gifts is a big one in Canada, but I think the important thing is to open the door to those opportunities as much as possible even during campaigns - your donors are thinking about their relationship and giving in a comprehensive way, why not present asks in the same way?

What are your thoughts?
 

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved