What are your Activation Energy Barriers to fundraising?

Take-away: Identify your fundraising weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

Buzz, buzz, buzz… BAM!

Snakelike, you strike, slamming the snooze button.

Buzz, buzz, buzz… BAM!  You hit snooze again. It’s Monday, your room’s frigid and it’s toasty under your quilt.

You, my friend, have a serious Activation Energy Barrier (AEB).

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The T-Shirt Folding Fundraising Leadership Test

Take-away: Don’t overlook introverts when hiring your next development director.


“You have the fundraising gene.”

I get that a lot from friends and acquaintances. What they mean is, “You’re extraverted, outgoing and not afraid to ask.”

They’re wrong.

I am an extravert, but my confidence and skill come from decades of professional experience. When I started my career, I was so scared I had to smoke a cigarette before I could summon up the courage to get on the phone to ask someone to volunteer. Not to give. Just to volunteer.

I know. Cigarettes in the office. This was decades ago.

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Show Up Ready for “Yes!”

Take-away: Do a self-scan before asking, and get happy so you show up anticipating a “Yes!” not bracing yourself for “No.”

You’re about to ask for a major gift. Your donor’s been thanked for their past giving and kept involved. You know about their family, their interests and their philanthropy. You have a project they’ll love at a cost they can afford. It’s time to ask, right?

Wrong. You’ve left the most important thing of all off your checklist.

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The Top 15 Reasons Why People Give

Take-away: Ask those close to you before reaching out to big name funders with no connection.

You wouldn’t ask Bill Gates to cover your hospital bill…would you? If you needed financial help, you’d ask a family member or a close friend first. Charity begins at home. The same principle applies to fundraising. It’s the people around you, those already engaged or invested in your nonprofit who will give. Finding support for your organization should start from the center out, from those who know you best, to those who know you least.

Yet too often, we dream of a sugar daddy, a miraculous cure-all for our organization’s financial woes. “One big check from Bill Gates or Warren Buffet could solve all of our problems,” we muse. Volunteer board members see a name in the Wall Street Journal or on TV and think these celebrities are the answer to all of their nonprofit’s challenges.

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Are You a Fundraising Criminal?

Take-away: Be sure that you are registered to fundraise before you start!

In the last 24 hours, several folks have approached me who thought they could ask for money in Pennsylvania, but couldn’t. Why? They’re not registered with the PA Bureau of Charitable Organizations. How do I know? Because it’s public. Anyone, including donors and foundations, can look them up.

Go ahead. See if you’re registered.

(Note: there’s 1 button to search Charities, another for Solicitors/Fundraising Counsel)

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Boost Board Fundraising with LinkedIn

Take-away: Board Members who LinkIn with staff and each other can raise $ without even asking.

“Who do you know?”

Most of us don’t know who we know. Not really. How would you know that your neighbor’s brother works for the Ford Foundation? Or that your tennis partner’s wife handles sponsorship for Wawa? We can’t introduce our nonprofits to connections we don’t know we have.

Actually, you can.

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Give your Donor a Target, not Indigestion

Take-away: Asking for specific gift amounts reduces anxiety, is more fun and gets bigger gifts.

Here’s a recipe for heartburn. You dine at a restaurant where the waiter can choose to slip you a bill for $10…or $10,000. You find an outfit you love … in a shop without price tags. Most of us want to know how much things cost and fear, “if you need to ask, you probably can’t afford it.”

Yet, with the best of intentions, you may put a donor in this anxiety-ridden no-man’s land. To avoid putting her in an awkward position or pressuring her, you say, “Just give what you can,” or, “Could you give a bit more than before?” or, worst of all, “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.”

DONOR: Hearing this, she thinks, OMG, did I give? How much? Was it $200? $1,000? …

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Teaching your Board to Ask; Don’t Put your Toddler on a Harley

Take-away: For practice and confidence, ask donors for gifts before asking prospects.

toddler on harley_original

Asking a new board member to solicit non-donors is like teaching a kid to ride a bike by putting her on a Harley. Not a good idea. Yet that’s just about what we do in fundraising. We tell new board members, “You don’t have to ask our donors; they’re already giving! We need you to bring in fresh blood, new donors.”
Subtext: “Get strangers to give us money.”

You’re afraid it will be awkward, because your friends and associates don’t yet know/care about your nonprofit. Or that it will be uncomfortable, because they may feel you’re using them. Worse, even if they do give when you ask them this time, unless you get them involved in the interim, they probably won’t give next year. So you’ll be back where you started. Except you may feel tongue-tied with some friends, family and colleagues.

Are you squirming yet?

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