Fundraising loses the spirit of generosity and gratitude when we characterize it as an arms-length transaction.
The concept of an arms-length refers to a type of transaction between two independent parties. This transaction ensures that both parties are acting on their own accord and without possibility of a conflict of interest. Granted, when it comes to contracts and other legally-binding negotiations, maintaining an arms-length sounds like a good idea.
However, when we are talking about fundraising, we are not talking about legal negotiations and the end result should always favor someone other than ourselves. Fundraising assumes mutual trust and a shared vision while contracts assume self-interest and the possibility of a law-suit. Fundraising loses the spirit of generosity and gratitude when we characterize it as an arms-length transaction. I would like to believe that neither party sees themselves as independent in their desire to change the world.
…much of what I see in professional fundraising today- the need for a retooling of our enterprise and a determination to move in a different direction despite our instincts.
I recently picked up a copy of Fortune Magazine with an article that caught my attention- The Re-Education of Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook, undoubtedly one of the most familiar websites on the planet. Jesse Hempel, the story-teller, begins with the bold statement- Zuckerberg made a bad decision and before she finishes the first paragraph quotes Mark as saying “It’s probably one of the biggest mistakes we’ve ever made.” As an admirer of well-made missteps and bold confessions, I couldn’t resist.
Hempel explains that in 2011, despite being one of the biggest players in the social-networking era, Zuckerberg and his team missed the next big shift in technology- that of consumers abandoning laptops for mobile devices.“[Zuckerberg] had to come to terms with failure, and he had to make sweeping structural and cultural changes at the young company- moves that often went against his instincts.”
Our love affair with constanting growing our mailing lists mixes well with fear-driven, overly-complicated, and arms-length fundraising strategies. Read More
You want to know if you have what it takes to be a Fundraising Rock Star. See what you think about these great quotes from some great fundraising professionals.
Choice to be a fundraising professional – “I don’t know anyone who, from an early age, was telling their parents that what they really wanted to be in life was a fundraiser.” Ken Burnett, Relationship Fundraising
Fundraising process – “Fundraising isn’t simply a matter of identifying wealthy people and asking them to give. Only those who are naïve think this. No, raising serious money is a comprehensive process.” David Lansdowne, Fundraising Realties
Wealth and income – “Any fundraiser who believes that money is taboo should consider a different profession. Learning about money- about how to raise it and manage it effectively- is essential… John Bateson, Building Hope
Genuine relationships – “Excellent fundraisers are adept at building relationships with individuals and groups. …they are sincerely interested in how other people see the world.” Victoria Steele, Becoming a Fundraiser
Driven toward the ask – “Asking is the essence of fundraising. It’s the most powerful tool you have. People rarely give generously without being asked directly.” David Lansdowne, Fundraising Realities
Not long ago a friend asked for some advice for an interview with a fundraising candidate. I volunteered my simple yet effective framework for him to consider. I suggested that he use my Fundraising Rock Star framework as the centerpiece of their discussion. I suggested he listen closely to the candidates reactions to each suggested characteristic.
Fundraising Rock Stars understand that effective fundraising involves a process – what does that process look like?
… a desire to establish and sustain genuine relationships- how do we more effectively establishand sustain those relationships?
… a level of comfort with money- how comfortable are we with matters of wealth and income?
… a determination to ask- when is it appropriate to establish ourselves as a fundraiser and when do when ask?
I always find it helpful to consider this statement as well- it will surely spark a response worth considering – Fundraising Rock Stars are not direct marketers, grant-writers, event planners or social media geeks. This statement will certainly ruffle a few feathers.
- Fundraising Rock Stars make the decision to be a professional fundraiser.
- Fundraising Rock Stars understand that fundraising is a process.
- Fundraising Rock Stars are comfortable talking about money.
- Fundraising Rock Stars are interested in building genuine relationships.
- Fundraising Rock Stars are driven towards the ask.
One of the mistakes organizations make is allowing a fundraiser to assume responsibilities previously assigned to volunteers. This is routinely the case with special event planning as responsibility for the vents are shifted from volunteer to the paid employee. Rarely does an organization consider the implications and costs of this decision.
Let me see if I can make more sense of what I am talking about with the help of an example. Each year Organization ABC hosts an annual event that has been successfully organized by volunteers. The event raises approximately $50,000 each year. For whatever reasons, this year the organization has hired a fundraiser who now assumes responsibility for the event. The fundraiser is not particularly good at managing volunteers however he or she was part of the planning committee for the event and therefore decides to organize most of the event on her own. The organization’s annual event quickly becomes the responsibility of the new employee with marginal increases each year which presumably justifies the shift in responsiblty for the event. The volunteer committee slowly diminishes from playing their role in the event. Continue Reading…
The usefulness of the renewal rate is most valuable when you have a mature network of active donors. Assuming the majority of a fundraiser’s network is made up of active donors, a consistent renewal rate becomes the most accurate indicator of fundraising performance.
Our emphasis on the renewal rate as a primary measure of fundraising performance begins once we have created a mature network of donors who are annually giving at levels consistent with their capacity. We can assume that communication between the fundraiser and each individual donor is satisfactory for both parties. With a mature fundraiser and a mature network of donors, the renewal rate becomes an ultimate measure of effectiveness. The renewal rate from month-to-month ensures that the fundraiser is attentive to the relationship with each individual donor. Similar to other characteristics that the fundraiser quickly recalls from memory, the renewal date is especially helpful in organizing his or her priorities.
Many organizations believe that their fundraising success is greatly dependent upon the never ending pursuit of new donors. Our love affair with constanting growing our mailing lists mixes well with fear-driven, overly-complicated, and arms-length fundraising strategies. Instead of improving on the quality of our efforts with existing donors, we assume their lack of responsiveness is beyond our influence or control. Our solution is to constantly seek out additional donors in hopes that new individuals will be more responsive than the previous. Our incessant search for the new donor (at the expense of a rewarding relationship with those we already have) becomes a driving force in almost everything we do.
On the rare occasion that an organization recognizes the potential in renewing donors rather than constantly seeking after new ones, the pervasive culture still prefers the new acquisition approach. Despite any attempt to orient ourselves towards renewal, we are no match for a fundraising culture and marketplace that is driven by fear and accustom to keeping our donors at arms-length. Our fundraising efforts are designed to distance ourselves from our current donors in anticipation of the flashy new donor who will arrive with greater capacity and fewer expectations. Hardly a fundraiser I know who will admit that an ever-growing list reduces the risks inherent in genuine relationships.