Essentials for Success
Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE
This is a taste, not the
What matters is what
happens when you leave
There are no wrong
Elements of Success
Sharing with each other
Questions for Gayle
How do I do it?
This is the essential question of any workshop.
We all attend workshops with the idea hope that we will find the answers that will
make us wiser, richer, more effective, more beautiful etc.
But before we get to this question, let me ask you to take the quiz on page 1 of your
packets. “How prepared are you for fundraising?”
You can find the quiz at: http://tinyurl.com/343ycgr
Opening Deep Thoughts
Before I start on the basics, I did want to share a thought or two.
While this workshop is about fundraising success, I would be crazy not to mention
the financial crisis that is going on around us. The uncertainty keeps all fundraisers
awake at night wondering what it means for our organizations, for the clients we
serve, for our own jobs.
None of us know how this will come out. We can take heart in knowing that both the
fundraising profession and most of our organizations have weathered tough times
before. In previous recessions, people have not abandoned philanthropy.
Yet, I recently heard Nobel Prize Winner Paul Klugman say that he wasn’t sure that
any of what has worked in the past will work again, that no one knew for certain how
to get us out of this, that the worst may be before us.
But he was still willing to hope.
If there is one thing I do know, now is not the time to go it alone. We can’t throw
each other under the bus to craft our own success. We’ve got to work together,
think together, innovate together, and share responsibility with each other or the
people we serve, who are already hurting badly, don’t have a chance.
I don’t have a ready prescription, but I know that we absolutely have to sit down
together, with a blank piece of paper, put every crazy and previously unimaginable
idea on the table, and make it work.
Most nonprofits stay REALLY SMALL
More than $100 mil
80% $5-10 mil
10% Less than $100,000
Registered Nonprofits Total Reported Revenue
Okay, so the topic is “Fundraising Success.”
Most nonprofits don’t have overwhelming success in fundraising. Most nonprofits
stay really small.
For many, that’s appropriate, because they work at the grassroots and in small
neighborhoods. Most nonprofits rely on program service income, on government
contracts, on 3rd party reimbursements. Philanthropy only accounts for 20% of
nonprofit revenues, with the exception of revenue generated in interest on
endowments that came about through philanthropy. So we’ve all got our work cut
out for us.
The estimated total of US philanthropy was $306 billion in 2007, up $11 billion from
2006. Most of that money goes to that tiny top tier of nonprofits which include
universities, top national/international nonprofits, etc.
The rest of us are doing a lousy job of making our case for support.
So, is philanthropy in serious trouble? Do people lack money to give away?
There is still disposable income out there. In the US, we spend over $11.7 billion on
soft drinks. $15 billion on bottled water. $8 billion on cosmetics. $2 billion on
There is still disposable income. The question is how we choose to prioritize
Secrets of Fundraising Success
I want to talk to you today about what it takes to raise a lot of money. Not just a
little, but a lot.
1. Connect to dreams
Giving, especially giving big, is about making dreams come true. In FY 2009, the
Make a Wish Foundation had combined income of all its affiliates of just over $192
The affiliate in tiny New Hampshire, a state of 1.3 million people, in 2008 was
raising over $1.25 million each year.
I know what you are thinking, children with life threatening diseases, heartbreaking
But Make A Wish Foundation receives lots of money in what they call external
fundraisers. These are events that staff don’t have to run themselves because
volunteers come together to create and manage those fundraisers. In the NH
example, that was close to $800,000 in external fundraisers.
Why? What do volunteers receive for raising this money?
It’s in the title. They know they make big wishes come through for kids with life
threatening illnesses. And that is pure joy of giving.
2. Shower your donors with love
Now more than ever. Because if you don’t, they are going to drop you and stay with
the organizations that both really, really matter to them, and that care about them.
No more “hitting” people up for money. No more boring or late thank yous. No more
talking to donors only when you want more money and nothing in between.
Donors have lots of choices. And they give from the heart.
3. Inspire Evangelists
Seth Godin is the former VP of Direct Marketing at Yahoo! He has published books
such as All Marketers are Liars and Permission Marketing, and created a web social
networking tool called Squidoo.
Seth has a short article on his blog called “Flipping the Funnel” In this blog, he talks
about giving your fans the power to speak up. While a good part of the article is
pushing his Squidoo, he makes some very powerful points:’
•Turn strangers into friends
•Turn friends into donors
And then... Do the most important job
•Turn your donors into fundraisers.
“We’re living in the most cluttered marketplace in history. People are better at
ignoring you than they’ve ever been before. You don’t have enough time or money
to get your message out.”
So his challenge to us is to use the people power among us to get our supporters
raising awareness and money for us.
We already have very successful examples of this --- the walk-a-thon, swim-a-thon,
dance-a-thon. In 2010, Save The Bay in RI raised $250,000 from its Swim, with
over 440 swimmers who entered.
We know how to do this.
4. Got Chutzpah?
Climb without a
You absolutely have to be fearless to raise a lot of money.
I recently interviewed two volunteers who chaired an $11 million capital campaign
for SaveThe Bay in RI. Between them, they talked to over 1,500 people over 3
years, many they knew, many they didn’t.
They asked Johnson and Wales University university to donate the land for their
campus, which they did.
They didn’t wait for other board members to help them raise money or whine that
They called their relatives on ski slopes.
They didn’t go to the usual suspects.
They got banks to make capital gifts when they usually don’t’ give to capital.
When I asked how many rejections they received, they told me 1. 1. Why? They
never took the first no for an answer.
They just knew they hadn’t connected yet in a way that made sense to those
They totally believed in their mission.
5. Invest in the Basics
What are the basics?
•Committed board members.
•Knowing what works in fundraising... Before you decide to blow it up.
•Cultivation, prospect research.
•A plan for success.
•Good donor software to keep track of people and what they give.
•Well written, engaging communications.
6. Believe in abundance
You can start out believing there isn’t enough money or support out there.
Absolutely have to believe this. You are not necessarily competing with each other
but you are definitely competing with discretionary spending. Remember the
bubblegum, the soft drinks, the big screen TV. That’s your competition.
And be creative. There are other things that you can ask for beyond money. Get
people involved in your organization in whatever way you can. Make them big
supporters of your cause & your organization. Truly make friends.
If your community doesn’t need you, you won’t survive.
7. Value Networks
Who do you know?
You don’t have to know wealthy people to make great connections for your
Whenever you meet someone, think about how to connect them to your cause. Not
everyone will be interested, but they can help connect you to other people or
resources you may need.
How do I do it?
Come back to this question of how.
is the wrong question!
To quote Peter Block:
“The How question carries the belief that others know and I don’t
“It carries the belief that what I want is right around the corner, that I lack
information or some methodology.”
How do I do this?
It comes with other hows:
How long will it take? How much does it cost? How do you get those people to
change? How have others done it successfully?
Let me be clear, How questions are not invalid, but according to Block, and I agree,
they are asked to soon.
They are too often asked to avoid the real questions, which are
What matters to me? What is the commitment I am willing to make?
Because the first answer to How is
We take a lot of flack in this sector. And a fair amount of it is deserved. But when I’m feeling particular fed up, I
remind myself of what this sector has tackled and what it has made real progress in:
Abolition of slavery, expansion of Civil Rights & Human Rights, Environmental Movement, Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals - to children, Museums, Art, culture, heritage, humanities, historic preservation, Higher education,
Libraries, Women’s Suffrage and Equality, Disease prevention, Wellness, Anti-discrimination and anti-apartheid,
LGBTQ rights, Rights of individuals with disabilities, de-institutionalization of mental health –
I myself have been a member/activist with TWO NGOs that have won the Nobel Prize for Peace: American
Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International
It is when we hold dearly to the societal impact that we want to have, when we look at the world and see it as it
could be and believe that what is isn’t good enough, that we believe in our own power, that is the secret to our
ability to make transformational change.
I have a colleague who is an excellent capital campaign consultant. A few years ago, he stopped doing the
classic feasibility studies– you know: go out, interview the potential top donors, find out how much they might be
willing to give, then do a calculation and tell the organization whether they can meet their goal or not.
Hank said the issue was never one of feasibility, it was always about commitment, the importance of the project
and how well others believed.
Did you ever wonder how the world might be different today if Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King Jr, or
Mohandas Gandhi hired a feasibility consultant before they took action.
Or Joanne Goldblum, a client of mine, who 4 years ago founded The New Haven Diaper Bank which with moms
in mini-vans collecting diapers and has now grown to delivering almost 1 million diapers a year in the city of
New Haven alone and about to expand to Hartford & Bridgeport. She has been recognized with the RWJ
Community Heros award, the NH Register Person of the Year, Yes, they have how questions about the
expansion, that’s why they hired me. But they can solve the logistics, the biggest question we are wrestling with
is what they are willing to commit to:
And I see that again and again with virtually all of the organizations in which I’ve worked and with whom I’ve
We get in the way of our yes
It is our own limitations, our own ambitions, our wants, needs, fears and desires,
that stand in the way of our ability to transform the world. Both our organizational
needs, and our personal ones as well.
It is impossible to answer the How question without answering Blocks other
question as well: What is the refusal that I have been postponing? Because if
we can’t say no, then our yes means nothing.
So I’d like to have you start with a personal exercise to help clarify your journey
through the rest of the day.
What is the NO that you are avoiding?
1. What is your deepest organizational desire?
2. What are you unable or unwilling to give up to
make it happen?
3. How does this affect your desire?
Take the next five or six minutes to think about this question and fill it out. I just
want to say that you are not a bad person for your wants and needs. They just are.
What this exercise is designed to do is to help clarify those limitations for you.