VOL. 131 | NO. 218 | Tuesday, November 1, 2016
FUNdraising Good Times
Pearl and Mel Shaw
Who Gets Credit for the Gift?
BY MEL AND PEARL SHAW
November and December are times of increased giving. So many of us are relationship- and philanthropy-focused. We open our homes to friends and family, and we open our wallets to nonprofits.
Knowing that many choose to make financial gifts during this time, nonprofits focus on reaching out to donors through direct mail, online campaigns and in-person requests for support. Altruism is in the air. But so is the business of nonprofit fundraising.
With this column we explore the balance between internal nonprofit fundraising pressures and the external realities of donor-focused fundraising.
Internally, organizations put attention on reaching their fundraising goal. This manifests in different ways. Board members may want to ensure they get “credit” for their efforts and are recognized as fulfilling their board-related fundraising responsibilities. Employees with fundraising as a job responsibility want to get “credit,” ensuring they meet their job requirements and increase their experience, expertise and perceived competence. All parties want to make sure the nonprofit – big or small – meets its fundraising goal.
But sometimes we forget that fundraising is truly a team effort. There is no one person who “makes it happen.”
The person who solicits donors plays a major role in fundraising, especially when it comes to soliciting gifts at the highest level. But even in these cases there is more than meets the eye. For example, at a very basic level, if your program or institution doesn’t deliver, it doesn’t matter who makes the ask. This means your program staff, faculty, social workers, artists and/or administrative employees all play a key fundraising role. Same with your CFO; if your money isn’t well-managed most major donors will know, and that can become a roadblock to securing major gifts.
Externally, amongst your donors, people really don’t care who gets credit for their gift. That is not their focus. They care about your organization’s work and the level of trust they experience. Donor-focused philanthropy puts the donor and his or her goals first. It is through the work of nonprofits that so many of us can see our dreams accomplished. If we believe in accessible, higher education we give to scholarship funds; those who believe every child deserves a home give to foster care programs; those believing in the visions of equality and equity give to civil rights groups. There are as many organizations to give to as there are aspirations in our hearts.
Donors may also have well-defined or unspoken personal, business or political goals associated with their giving. Some want to honor a family member or community leader. Others want to raise their profile. Recognizing donor motivation is important to meeting donors’ needs. Related to this, the year end may not be the right time for a donor to give. Your organization’s timing is not their priority. You need to respect that.
Giving and receiving are joyous outcomes of fundraising. Don’t let the pressure of the season take away your joy. Find the right balance.
Mel and Pearl Shaw, owners of fundraising consultancy firm Saad&Shaw, can be reached at 901-522-8727 or saadandshaw.com.