Fundraising 101 - A few tips

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

For most non-profits fundraising is a non-negotiable. The funds have to come in to keep the lights on and the only way they’re going to come in is if someone is out there bringing the money in! This is one of the most difficult yet fulfilling aspects of being a non-profit leader. 

Here’s a story and a few best practices to help you on your fundraising journey!

Fundraising will many times require patience as you wait on a final response from a potential giver. This along with learning how to trust that Gods timing is always perfect are life changing practices to develop for anyone who is responsible for securing funds. As you grow in the art of these practices you can have peace in the process and also place your valuable time and attention on pursuing other givers as you wait!

The simplest way to learn the art of patience when it comes to fundraising is to embrace ahead of time that whatever timeframes you would normally expect or prefer are going to be double at a minimum! This forces you to adjust and establish expectations that although initially may make you uncomfortable, will remove the stress often felt throughout the relationship building process.  That’s it! Managing your expectations makes patience much easier!   I’ll share a recent example of when these two dynamics played out so clearly in my life; a full year from the day when I first met a foundation board member and took the first step into relationship I received a check for $50,000. Here’s the story;

During an unplanned encounter at a dinner gathering, with who we will call Mr. Foundation Man, I was able to ignite the first spark of what I hoped could turn into an inferno of a relationship.  We talked for about twenty minutes at which point I understood I would need to release from my gripping conversation and eye contact regardless of how stimulating it was.  As the conversation drew to a close I politely asked if I could follow up on our brief conversation again to share some outreach investment opportunities that I felt his foundation might get excited about supporting.

My new found prospect was very gracious and welcomed the opportunity for me to contact him again in the near future.  After about two weeks I reached out to him and set up a time to talk further.  We ended up having about a thirty minute conversation which allowed me to gain a greater understanding of what his foundation preferred to support and begin to share some areas that I thought would align with their objectives.  At the conclusion I asked if I could submit something in writing (a proposal) that he and others could review and provide me some feedback on.  Once again he agreed to continue the relationship and within another two weeks I submitted a proposal to his attention.  The proposal included a pretty substantial request that would provide essential resources for a very important ongoing program.   I didn’t receive any immediate response that the material was received.  Several weeks went by so I sent this contact an email just to make sure he received my document and if he had any questions.  Still no response for another several weeks!  Having acquired his personal phone number during our earlier conversation, (hint- always try to get personal contact) I decided to send him a very friendly text and purposely did not mention the proposal.  My hope was that I could just continue to build relationship and keep communication alive.  After about 24 hours I received a response thanking me for my text and also a brief comment that he had received the proposal and said “I will be in touch”.  In touch, What does that mean?  Well basically it means I have only partial control over the timetable of this relationship.  But isn’t this the case with every relationship?  Weeks turned into months and months began to close on a year. During this time my team was working on how best we could strengthen the initiative that the proposal funding I submitted would support along with performing some much overdue assessments and planning.  This took several months, meetings, a 360 survey, prayer, etc.  After a lot of hard work my team came up with a solid plan and a cohesive team approach to addressing immediate needs and having greater long term impact.  Now all we needed was an infusion of resources and a long term partner to see the value in what we wanted to accomplish! Entering back into the story, Mr. Foundation Man.  I was sitting at my desk preparing for an upcoming board meeting when out of the clear blue I receive a call from Mr. Foundation Man where he asked me if I could get on a call with the entire board of the foundation in two minutes.  I realized at that moment that this foundation was meeting and they were reviewing the document I had submitted and had some questions for me.  Talk about nerves.  First of all I didn’t have my hands on the proposal and even if I didn’t have enough time to review it. It was so many months ago, I knew I would be fuzzy on the specifics. All I could do at this point was pray.  So pray I did and sure enough the call came in within two minutes, a brief introduction of who was in the room and the questions starting coming at me like bullets from a Tommy-gun! Truth be told I felt as though my answers stunk!  Somehow the conversation came to an abrupt halt after about ten minutes and my contact, Mr. Foundation Man thanked me for my time and once again said, “I will be in touch”. This conversation took place about noon and from that point forward I felt somewhat out of it!  I returned home my normal time that evening and after finishing dinner with my wife my phone rang.  I looked down and much to my surprise it was Mr. Foundation Man.  I immediately answered the call and he proceeded to inform me that the foundation had decided to grant us our full requested amount.  Wow! To say I was shocked and humbled at the same time would be putting it mildly. And he again said at the end of the call, the phrase that I’m now all too familiar with “I’ll be in touch." Fast forward a week from this call I'm in California visiting the foundation office staring at a horse track (a story for another day) carefully placing a check for $50,000 in my sports jacket pocket.

It is clear that Gods timing was perfect, me and my team needed to be in a better place to steward the resources and relationship that He was going to provide!

Is a year a long time?  Of course! Did I have doubts that we’d ever see a penny from the proposal? Of course! But I knew that no matter what happened God’s timing is perfect and all I can do is continue to work with diligence and thankfulness! 

The view as I received the $50,000 check!

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