The 3 Most Common Mistakes in Relational Fundraising
Guest Post by Keith Kall, Executive Director of Corporate Engagement (Global Partnerships) at World Vision. Keith will be facilitating a special one-day Non-Profit Fund Development Intensive with Ideation next month. Please click here for more info.
I’m honored to be asked by the Ideation Team to write a guest blog what I would consider are 3 mistakes in relational fundraising. Based on my professional experience, here are the three most common errors that I see people commit when trying to raise funds.
1. Tactical Mistake – “The Pitfall of Misdirection”
You are the message – Your performance in fund-raising directly correlates to your ability to connect with people. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, there is a long and self-defeating tradition in fundraising (as well as other professions) of relying on PowerPoint presentations and folders of chalk full of marketing materials to communicate your message, to make your case, and to move people. I’m not sure why people do this; maybe, it’s fear, insecurity, or a simple miscalculation, but whatever the reason, they are likely undermining their effectiveness and performance.
Time and attention are two of today’s most valuable commodities. If someone is generous enough to give you both, honor them, value them and take maximum advantage of their potential. Some beautiful opportunities are lost to collateral material reviews or abdicated to PowerPoint presentations.
I am not saying that you can’t use these materials, because they can be helpful as supports; rather I am saying that you need to make sure that they do not become the focus of your meetings. The focus of the meeting should be the direct interaction between you and a prospective donor. You will gain far more for your cause and your objectives by personally engaging a donor through good questions, targeted information, meaningful story-telling, and rapport building than you would by diverting their attention away from you (the voice and face of your organization) and towards a dead tree or blinking lights.
So, keep the folders in the briefcase, free yourself of unnecessary weight/distractions and make relationship building the central focus of your meetings. If need be, you can always send a folder later or leave it with them as the meeting concludes.
We are social beings, so we are moved by personal connections, not some cursory explanations of a trifold. You will gain far more by investing in people than explaining documents.
2. Strategic Mistake – “The Error of Mistaken Identity”
Too often many highly capable, and potentially successful, people fumble great fundraising opportunities at the moment that they forget who they are and try to become someone else.
Too often many people with great potential try to live up to a cartoonish image of a fundraiser, rather than capitalize on all their unique talents and interpersonal skills that they have developed over a lifetime that have brought them to the place that they are. Ironically, the image that they most people aspire to has all the attractiveness of the last suit in a bargain bin at a second hand store and is, not surprisingly, about as comfortable to wear. Further, it psychology disconnects you from the person you’re talking to as you commit to an image, rather than engaging the person in front of you.
I’m not even sure what a typical fundraiser is and doubt that I even want to know. The best producers that I know, the real heavy hitters, are among the most diverse group of individuals I know and have very little in common, except for one thing – a clear sense of who they are and who they are not. This keen self-awareness translates into an individual style that gracefully directs flow and power of their skills, both innate and developed, to move people in amazing ways in order to often produce some truly incredible results.
In short, it’s all about the verb, not the noun. You will be a lot more successful in building better donor relationships and developing more support, if you are doing the fundraising, rather than being a fundraiser.
3. Professional Mistake: “The Under-Appreciation of Continual Skill Development”
Quite simply, whatever you are bringing to the job, it’s not enough. It’s never enough. In the nature cycle of life, nothing is static; rather, things are either in a state of decay or growth. It might be hard to see at the moment, but over a long enough course you can clearly see which way things are moving. I believe we owe it to ourselves, our profession, our organization, and our cause to always be improving our tradecraft.
If you want to raise more funds, you need to get down and dirty, so you can continually acquire/build/develop your skills in order to hone your craft. It’s more than just doing the work, it’s more than just passion – it’s an intentional focus on improving the mechanical elements of the work. Greater performance is the by-product of hard work and discipline it’s an attention to the details and a self-driven, hard-working cycle of practicing, reflecting, learning, training, editing, experimenting, critiquing, doing, and growing.
Personally, I have found that ready dedication to professional improvement can help mitigate the potential for burnout, insecurity and frustration, because at their heart progression and improvement carry messages of hope for a better future.
Be sure to join Keith Kall at our next Ideation Intensive on July 15th in Santa Ana, CA! Space limited so register today.