Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Yesterday I attended a meeting called "The Future of Fundraising" organized by Jennifer McCrea with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. It was at the Harvard Club in New York.

It was a small group with a bunch of heavy hitters including some of the best fund raisers in the world. I learned a tremendous amount and was very energized after the meeting.

Some notes from the meeting.

Good executive directors (ED) were also the main fund raisers and they generally loved fund raising. In fact, there was a strong opinion of many that any ED who wasn't excited about fund raising, shouldn't be the ED.

Fund raising is about relationships and building relationships and is very different from sales and marketing in normal for-profits.

In a non-profit, you're not selling some good or service to a customer. What you're doing is helping the donor fulfill or pursue a dream or a cause. In order to be successful you have to understand the donor and become part of their world view.

Many non-profits think of donors as a funding source to pay for programs that execute on their mission. In fact, donors should be part of the mission. Good non-profits integrate the funding model directly into the mission. Churches are usually MUCH better at raising money than the natural history museum because "giving" is an integral part of the church-going experience whereas the natural history museum usually tries to collect money from the outside to allow them to run their mission internally.

When trying to understand a world view of someone, it is useful to try to categorize their world view and there may be seven basic world views.

The following "Seven Philanthropic World Views" were presented by Gunther M. Weil.

World View Philanthropic Values & Motive
Alien/Threatened Survival & Security
Family/Social family tradition, care/nurture, status/image
Organizational/Transactional financial metrics & accountability, productivity, efficiency
Self-Actualization/Service self-discovery, empathy, altruism, service
Collaborative social justice, innovation, collaboration
Symbiotic society transformation, prophetic vision, wisdom & spirituality
Global Transformation global transformational human rights, global ecology, macroeconomics

Once you understand someone's world view, it's much easier to try to understand why they would give and whether there is something in what we do that helps them advance their world view.

Another key point in all of the stories about successful fund raising was that good fund raisers loved their work. Their work was to get to know people. How are their kids? What's their dogs name? Do they have extra tickets to the ballgame? Do they need extra tickets to the ball game? The feelings have to be genuine, respectful and they have to care. You need people who LIKE people. You shouldn't ask for money when you first meet, but you should never leave a meeting without asking for SOMETHING. Also, you should offer something too. Always have a followup action. But most importantly, walk away knowing the world view of the person and begin developing trust. The partnership with donors is a long term relationship involving lots of dialog and exchange where the giving to the organization is only one piece.

All of the top fund raisers took two vacations. One with their families and another with their families and their donors. Working with donors means becoming part of their private lives. It's not just a day job.

One organization sent a message to all of their donors during the Haiti crisis asking them to give to an NGO that they had vetted. They didn't ask for any money for themselves. This had a hugely positive effect and the donors trust in the group increased. Wallets aren't zero sum.

Long term donors and their relationship with the organization is a partnership. This is true of individuals, government program officers and foundation program officers.

One thing to keep in mind is that the world view of the organization that they're in (or family) and the person themselves can sometimes be different and teasing all of this out and helping them solve for this is also key. It's important not to try to force our story and lead with what we need, but rather to understand what the donor needs and see how we fit into the solution.

A key term that kept coming up was "tribe". We're trying to make a tribe of donors and supporters and they all need to feel like they're participants, not just funders for some group of people who go off and do stuff.

Having said that, there is also a lot of analysis. One non-profit would somehow get all of the names and annual incomes of targeted high-net-worth individuals and do a 3 hour call with the board to figure out who would approach who and strategize the approach to each person.

In most cases, board members developed relationships directly with the donors and rarely did the development person successfully email "on behalf" of the board member. A good development staff member usually provided support, analytics and tracking.

The message is very important. It's important to evoke an emotional and visual idea of what we do, rather than the detailed explanation of what we do. The metaphor that resonated was "what is in the frame" no what is written on the plaque below the picture.

My apologies for the rambling style of these notes, but I thought I'd get them out while they were fresh on my mind. I wanted to share because fundraising is a key component to success for non-profits and it is one of the things I get asked about the most.

1 Comment

Great article. I started 'Angel Projects' very much based on a number of these principles and have found them to be key.

'Donors being part of the mission' is absolutely essential in order for the donor to feel relevance. I hope to verify and assess Projects in our target area (Mali, West Africa) and offer them open to individuals with whom that Projects strikes a chord.

I have subscribed to the Charity2.0 ( principles that encourage collaborative efforts between chairites and NGOs - aiming for a world where 'we' do not compete to help people EVER.

Above all, if you don't enjoy fund-raising then it will quickly tire you out and prove way to onerous to be successful. I thoroughly enjoy fund-raising - and personally nowadays just struggle to balance my time between operational duties on the ground and the fund-raising duties overseas. However, the sense of achievenment and enjoyment never fades.

Great article.

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