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3 Questions In 3 Minutes

1. Is your organization donor centric? Is that important?

Donor centric is a wonderful approach to working with donors so that they remain loyal and feel inspired. If they feel inspired they will give more often or give even more generously and remain excited about the work they are supporting. That's a sustainable advantage for your organization.

I was surprised to see that when the pandemic hit there were a number of organizations in my own sphere where the development offices actually quit working. This is a time when reaching out to donors to determine how they are doing is vital. Telling them how the organization is doing relative to the virus: Is it responding in a meaningful way? With what strategies? What about the clients? What about the staff--how are they doing?

Staying in touch with donors and prospects no matter what is happening is essential to being donor centric. Cultivating donors and prospects and keeping them informed and aware is critical. And asking them to support your mission--a mission to which they have already made a commitment--is a key step. That's donor centric. Remember that people don't just give money away--they dream of making an exciting and lasting difference.

2. What if your board members don't give to your organization?

This is a huge problem. If board members don't financially support your institution they are breaking the cardinal rule of being on the board. We often hear it said, "Give, get or get off." It is the job of the board to give and to help the staff raise funds to fulfill the mission of the organization. And if they don't give, they can't ask others either.

Because it is so critical for board members to make a contribution, be careful in how board members are recruited. It should be very clear in the early meetings with candidates that they understand that giving--and at what level--is one of their key responsibilities. If an organization fails to do this, then it is complicit in lack of board participation. Be clear and set the standards and then follow-through throughout the year.

Remember, the board leads the way--the board chair needs to ensure that this is part of his/her theme song throughout the year. And, sorry, but if a board member does not give, their term should not be renewed and they should understand that this was a key reason.

3. Should you ask a prospect for a specific amount?

My answer is a resounding YES. If you don't ask for a specific amount, then the individual has no idea how much is needed and why. I will go back to some of the best advice I ever received: Remember, that you are not asking a prospect or a donor for a gift for yourself, you are asking for the mission of an organization that is making a genuine impact on an urgent issue, helping a constituency which you and the prospect both support.

If you are not specific, then you risk everything. If you would say, the project can be named for $10 million or $15 million, the prospect will no doubt give you $10 million--you just created a floor rather than a ceiling. It will affect every aspect of your development program. Be specific with an amount or, only rarely, provide a menu of options at different levels.

Be confident in your ask--this gets at the art and science of fundraising. Remember, there are community issues and your organization has the solutions...but you need to have support. If you don't ask, you will not get, for sure. So create the culture of asking, of being sure of yourself, and being specific. Everyone will be much more satisfied, especially you.


Actor Alan Alda once wrote: Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work, risking, and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful: yourself.


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