FUNDRAISING BASICS: Get R.E.A.L! Engage!


All too often, we’re totally backwards about asking people for money. Asking so fills us with fear that we put off the inevitable as long as possible. But at some point, our organizations goes into a financial crisis, and we have to ask. And we just blurt it out on letters or in person.

Imagine the donor process is like the dating process. We want to get married (get the gift) but we’re scared to death of meeting people. So we stall, staying inside, not going on a single date. Then, we really NEED to get married so we run into the nearest bar and ask the person at the stool beside us if they’ll marry us!

Crazy, isn’t it?

So why do we do this with asking?

Even if we do the excellent work of the researching step, it’s still too soon to ask for a major gift. We need to date the prospective donor first. I call this the “engage” step.

Research is behind the scenes; engaging involves direct communication with the prospect.

Be genuinely interested in them, not just their money. (Or your perception of their money–some folks look well off but are merely broke at a higher level.)

Take them out to lunch. Visit them when traveling in their area. Send them articles you think might interest them. Take note of what interests them, and what doesn’t. There’s no point in asking someone to make a substantial gift to a cause they don’t care about.

At least do the courtesy of trying to find something in your cause that relates to their interests.

Engaging is a two-way process. Be sure to share the successes your organization is experiencing. (Remember, people give to winning causes, not to needs!)

I feel this step is even more important than “research.” No one raises money behind a desk. It’s all about relationships. So get out there and meet your prospects.

But don’t get stuck here either. No prospect has ever made a significant gift just because you were friendly and engaging. They still need to be asked…

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