Monday, November 17, 2008

From a charity fundraisers point of view part I

Most of the papers and advice around recession giving is from consultants (though I still think the best was from a charity bod, Amanda Seller from WSPA in the video previously blogged).

Agencies and consultants dominating published materials is no surprising, since our job is to help charities raise more money and it is important that we make ourselves feel important, oops, I mean important that we display leadership and bring clarity to the situation, arm fundraisers for board and CEO battles and help give charities what they need to avoid recession suicide.

But last week I got a letter from a fundraiser. A proper letted, on headed paper with a signature and everything - (though it was emailed)... anyway some useful tips and feedback from Kimberley MacKenzie who is Executive Director at Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation, and also responsible for 90% of the comments on this blog!

She starts by saying she likes the blog, which I guess lots of people do considering the numbers of people that visit it. But she is worried -

"Many fundraisers seem to be at a bit of a loss right now, perhaps because we can’t find the answers in any of the books in our libraries. No one has put this situation in a geometrical shape for us yet. No pyramids, ladders, concentric circles, stools, pillars or infinity loops to guide us. Eeeek! Trusting our intuition and taking some risks at a time like this will be very important and for some a little scary. "

Despite conflicting advice, she has been debating whether she should mention the recession when talking to donors. I have put my two penneth up about whether to mention it but the question has to be more about how you talk about it.

Kimberley decided to mention it. '...and I have everyday this week. Donors are smart, meeting with them and not talking about it is like not acknowledging the giant elephant in the room and trying to talk around it. Better I think, to admit there is an elephant, roll up your sleeves together and figure out what to do about it.'

Since she started doing that, she has gathered some stories. Here is the first:

Corporate Fundraising – Not Getting Money

We have a major corporation we have been cultivating for years. They are HUGE.

They have been helping and supporting us in small ways for two years. They have hosted events for us, had meetings, sponsored our annual dinner even hosted our board in their corporate board room.

A lot of time and effort has been spent engaging them. We planned the last quarter of this year as the right time to firm up their leadership commitment.

In the meeting today we were told that due to the financial crisis that has hit them very hard ($215 million dollars worth of corporate pain!) “All discretionary expenditures have been stopped”.

We have no choice but to continue to keep them engaged and stand by them through the storm – hoping that one day when the “discretionary spending” comes back they think of us and the relationship will realize its full potential. MORE patience.


Thinking about her positive approach - keep them engaged. This makes sense in theory, but with our limited resources I worry about the impact of the opportunity cost. ie whilst keeping them engaged, is she missing out on other areas of fundraising to fill the gap?

I will post her other stories on future blogs.

Sean Triner


Laurie Pringle said...

Jeffrey Fox (How To Become A Rainmaker), has his "miles per gallon of selling". You have only so much gas in the tank to get from the start of your journey to the close of your journey. (cultivation to close). Fox says "Rainmakers don't plan a thirty mile trip, with 20 miles worth of gas".

I say - "Rainmakers" find a more fuel efficient vehicle, so they require far less fuel to reach more destinations.

Engagement doesn't mean that we give up the opportunity to achieve our goals with other prospects, it merely means work to engage people in different ways. We may well have limited resources, but we have various kinds of resources.

It may well be that you engage the prospect who is unable to give today, by involving them in the process of reaching out to others. Make the journey your vehicle and you've just made "the gas tank" a thing of the past.

Easier said than done, but not impossible and it's just one of many options.

'Sean is always learning' said...

Great reply Laurie, thanks! Other people's views too please...

Kimberley from Canada said...

uuuuh we really want to encourage participation with this particular post? Aren't there numbers and spreadsheets we could passionately discuss?

Just saying....

Okay then. Laurie great points. You are right Sean it would be great to hear more thoughts.