Everybody's a Fundraiser
The realities of working for social change in a small organization.
By Susan McKay

Excerpt from a how-to presentation.
Does your nonprofit have a talented full-time fundraiser? If it does, congratulations on your good fortune! More likely, your group has a small staff and everybody wears and shares many hats. Hopefully, you have a board and volunteer members who do a lot of everything, too. You are also likely struggling with mission versus money, and wondering how you can have one without the other. The answer is you can’t and you don’t have to.

I’m not going to tell you “how to write the world’s greatest grant proposal” or “how to find untapped funding sources in Siberia.”  You’re working for real change so let’s not waste time on fantasies. I’m going to introduce you to what I call the M&M Factor: building membership and money. By using simple yet effective proven techniques, organizations working on issues at the local to statewide level can broaden membership and boost coffers, both of which are necessary to build a movement and advance your message.

More Members, More Money -- It's All About Building Relationships
Fundraising, sales, marketing, and promotions are cousins.  I find that most activists I meet do not realize this because many who gravitate to socio-eco-enviro justice work either have little other professional experience or come from a social services background. In either case, they may never have worked in the private sector where sales and marketing drive success. Coming from the corporate world, I have the advantage of understanding how sound business strategies can be used to develop successful funding strategies to fuel nonprofit work.

My corporate background includes being an account manager, writer and producer for cable and network TV; senior advertising writer and project manager for a national catalog retailer; free-lance proposal writer and consultant for one of the world's largest corporations; and freelance web writer/editor for several dotcom's. Whether selling commercial air time to a car dealer, designing print ads that enticed customers to buy cookware, or creating a proposal that convinced a hospital CFO to buy a $2-million MRI machine, success was always about more than products or services. It was about building relationships.

Competition was stiff. Knowing my audience or customer--what they wanted and why--was a prerequisite before contact was ever made. How else could I market an item in a way that struck a cord with the decision-maker?

Whether you want a business relationship, a romantic relationship or a financial relationship, if you don't strike a cord with the other person on the level you are aiming for, you will not get what you want.

Striking a chord is all about understanding the music you want to make. For humans, a universal tune we all hope to play well is relationship.  Respect, value and investment are key chords for success.  We may not name it, but we know when someone approaches us in a respectful way. They are friendly, gracious, and sincere. That's the starting point.

For a relationship to bloom the people involved must find something of value in the experience. Sales rep or fundraiser, you need to convince the potential client or donor that what you are offering is worth their time and money. Remember…we are talking about building a relationship, so unless you are looking for a one-night-stand, you need to convince them that they are making an investment. Show them that the money they are spending will grow into something more. In the business world this means more customers, more sales, and more profits. In the nonprofit world it means more supporters, more resources, and more success. When this happens, donors feel good about writing the check. Of course, it does not stop there.

Relationships with your donors, like any relationship you value and want to last, must be nurtured.

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