Last year a philanthropist approached me. He told me about the philanthropist community he started. With this he wants to inspire people to give more, and to help them achieve maximum impact with their gifts. The community consists of app. 100 active philanthropists (and growing), and supports its members to make their philanthropy more enjoyable and effective. A great initiative if you ask me!
But there were some challenges, which was why he approached me. They found it quite difficult to build relationships with NGOs. Or, to be more specific: to build them in the way they would like to. The problem was: they want to spend their time and money as effectively and efficiently as possible (not strange, knowing that the group consists largely of successful – and pretty busy – entrepreneurs). They found it difficult to receive clear and specific (project) proposals, feel connected with the NGOs through an engaging relationship, or even to get in personal contact with the right people in the NGOs. The latter regularly took them quite some time, and this often surprised (and in some cases even irritated) them. From their point of view their willingness to give is an opportunity, an opportunity that quite some NGOs didn’t grab. In order to understand why this happens, the philanthropist asked me what it is that NGOs struggle with when it comes to dealing with philanthropists.
Well, funnily enough, I think that NGOs deal with about the same challenges. It’s difficult for them to find out what really interests (individual) philanthropists, to get them involved in their work and to get in personal contact with them. Since I meet a lot of fundraisers responsible for getting major donors to commit to their organization, I thought: why not ask them about the one thing that they struggle with the most, when it comes to major donor conversations. Well, here are some of the answers I got:
- ‘When do I ask for money?’
- ‘How can I make our current major donors give more?’
- ‘What are motivations for philanthropists to give?’
- ‘How do I prevent major donor conversations to be too much about chitchat and too less about money?’
And now this is where it gets interesting. Do you see what I see? For these fundraisers, it’ all about the money. At first, it sounded a bit needy-greedy to me. After all: if you focus too much on the wallet, you’ll probably forget about the person who’s carrying it. But then it made me think: in a way, with the philanthropists it was all about the money as well. They were looking for an effective and efficient way to spend their money philanthropically. Or: to spend it as well and as simply as possible. Ha! That does make you think differently about the rules of engagement, doesn’t it? This specific group of major donors would probably shiver with the thought of having 6 to 8 conversations with a non-profit in a period of 12 to 18 months before they can give away their money.
But – before you think you can ask for money earlier then you were taught at conferences, in books, workshops or masterclasses – you have to realize: although it seems to be all about the money, it’s not. To these philanthropists money was not an issue at all. They know they can use it to support the causes they feel related to, and they will. But that doesn’t mean that – knowing this – fundraisers can go asking for a gift as soon as they can. Not even when it comes to philanthropists with an entrepreneurial profile, with only little time to spend on the relationship with the NGO.
What I learnt is that it’s not about money, but about making sure you major donor conversations are effective and efficient. It’s about servicing the philanthropist on contents and relationship first, before you talk about money. It’s about learning what a major donor wishes to achieve – philanthropically – as an individual (and thinking this way is probably not common for most NGOs, as they’ve made most of their money by asking for what the NGO wants).
My guess is that you’ve heard or read the above once or twice before. But what you might experience in practice, is that the preconditions of major donors (either entrepreneurial types or not) can differ per person, per culture, and per country. This makes our job to figure out what kind of service level a (prospect) major donor wants often pretty difficult.
Well, this will be exactly what we will focus on during the masterclass ‘Major donor conversations made easy’, Tuesday October 14 and Wednesday October 15 at the International Fundraising Congress. Together with the great Tony Myers, I will help you to come to a conversation strategy that’s applicable in different countries and in different cultures. We will look into the 7 things you need to know before asking big, the 5 things you need to listen for, and the 3 roles you need to play when asking.
What to expect? A highly interactive session, with a lot of delegate participation. It’s not a coincidence that a North American and a European expert will lead the session. Together with you, we will look at the (probable) differences in culture and country, and how to apply this to your major donor conversation strategy. We invite fundraisers from all over the world to join the masterclass and share their experiences with major donor conversations. Of course, both Tony and I will share our experiences with you, but you’ll play a significant role in the session as well. We are already looking forward to meeting you and getting inspired by you!
This post is part of the 2014 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress! Check out HERE when Vera is presenting at the IFC.