We’ve spent the last few issues of Extreme Fundraising looking at the importance of story. While reading Jeffrey Fox’s “How to Become a Rainmaker” I recently read a question that will help you tell your story. Right at the beginning of the book he says:

Always Answer the Question, “Why Should This Customer Do Business With Us?”

What a great question for fundraisers!

It’s so easy for us to focus in the “need” we have. I’m shocked at how many prospective clients and colleagues have answered the “why should a donor give to this project” with basically “If we don’t have this capital expansion we’ll die.”

That won’t motivate many donors.

It will motivate employees. (Or have the opposite effect of getting them so stressed out they become paralyzed and ineffective.)

It may motivate a few donors. If you’re blessed with a core of diehard donors that have stuck with your organization for decades, this may be effective for them. But even they will get tired of “our future is doomed unless this happens” appeals.

So ask yourself: “Why should this donor make a substantial gift to us?”

If you don’t know why most of your donors give to you, ask them. Either in your normal face-to-face conversations or in a survey or in a focus group. Don’t ask them “Why in the world to you give to us?!” But ask them things like:

  • What caused you to make us one of your favorite charities?Â
  • What do you like most about the work our organization does?
  • What do you see as the most important things our group brings to the community?

Answers to these questions are gold! They will help you tell your story and attract more donors.
If you can’t come up with any answers as to why a donor should give to you…it may be time to dust off your resume and think of your exit strategy. Sometimes you just get burnt out at a place and lose the ability to see all the great things your nonprofit is accomplishing. If this sounds like you, you’re probably no longer serving your organization as well as it deserves. So start looking for the next thing, and for people that could take over for you.

For many of us, figuring out why a donor would do business with us is a bit challenging at first. But it soon becomes an excercise that sells us on our organization all over again. You’ll be thinking “Hey, we really are doing cool things! We really are ‘all that’ to some people!”

That enthusiasm will shine through as you tell your story and ask for money.

In the meantime, consider going to your library or Amazon to pick up Fox’s book How to Become a Rainmaker.

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