I've been hearing a well-meaning but fundraising killing myth while talking to many groups and training many boards over the last few months. It boils down to:
"We need to do more education. If people really knew what we did, they would give money and our funding crisis would be over."
Or more generally:
"If they knew about us, they'd give.
One gentleman took along time to explain each step of the education process.
- He needed to raise $1 million so he could get a celebrity spokesperson to champion his cause.
- Once that famous person was recruited, people would listen.
- And news outlets would tell the nonprofit's story.
- All of that media and attention would lead to millions learning about the issue his nonprofit exists to correct.
- If people really understood how bad the situation was, they would give and his money issues would be gone.
He was passionate. He was logical. And he was completely wrong.
Educating is not fundraising.
Educating? Or fundraising?
To illustrate the point while talking with this year's winners of L'Oreal Paris' Women of Worth, I asked,
- "How many of you have family and friends who know about your nonprofit?" Everyone raised their hands. "They're really well educated. They know why you do what you do." Everyone shook their heads in agreement.
- "How many of you have family and friends that know about your nonprofit but don't make donations to your cause?" Everyone kept their hands up.
The most educated people around them weren't giving!
The reason: education is not asking.
Nothing happens without an ask
As another board member told me years ago,
"Nothing in life happens without an ask. Getting a job. Getting a promotion. Even getting married requires an ask."
The same is true with fundraising. You need to ask.
Please hear me: I have nothing against education. Education is a noble endeavor. But if you need to pay the bills, fundraising is the tool to use, not educating.
As you finish the calendar year, review your communications with donors. Are you clearly asking for a donation? Not hinting. Not inferring. But clearly asking?
If not, make the ask clear.
One way to test: if a donor asked you why you were calling/mailing/visiting and you answer with anything but "To ask you to give to this impact," you're educating, not fundraising.