If you’re like most people, the idea of asking individuals for money is the last thing you want to do. Unless, you’re my oldest son who doesn’t mind asking me for a lot of things. In fact, he seems pretty confident each and every time. But, I digress.
What is it about individual solicitations that cause nonprofit leaders to lose their confidence, stumble over words, or devise an elaborate process in which to woo potential donors? Having known plenty of people who excel at this seemingly amazing feat, I decided to ask Roxanne Fiddler, my new BFF (Best Fundraising Friend) to elaborate on the art of schmoozing individual donors.
Q: I often hear people use the term “friend-raising” as an alternative to the word “fundraising”. Is there a difference between the two terms? If so, what are they?
A: There’s a world of difference. Friends make the organization. Funds provide fuel for program implementation. It’s the same thing with a car. Funds are the fuel; without them, we go nowhere. But friends are the action, the drive behind the funds. Friends provide direction, vision, inspiration, and passion. They keep the staff supported with their enthusiasm.
Q: As a person who majored in Psychology in both undergraduate and graduate school, I am continually fascinated with human behavior. What role does understanding human behavior have in a fundraiser’s ability to raise charitable dollars?
A: It’s a fascinating topic. Giving is a crucial part of our identities. This is because it’s what we do with the money we’ve made that gives it meaning. Most people WANT to improve the world around them, but have to find a place for giving and supporting in their valuable spare time. A fundraiser needs to make the notion of ‘being yourself by giving’ fit and flow seamlessly into a donors life. This idea needs to improve a donor’s quality of life as well as improve the lives of others. Giving needs to feel like the natural expression that it is.
Q: As a fellow fundraiser, I’m sure you can attest to the importance of engaging a variety of different groups in supporting community change. What advice would you give a nonprofit leader who is interested in cultivating financial supporters from different racial and generational groups?
A: I would say get out there. Charitable giving and community involvement is not exclusive to anyone. Everyone has a vested interest in these things. Get out, get involved, and listen to what people want to be involved in as well as how they want to be involved and then, make it happen. People give to people. To a large extent it’s not about raising money itself. Fundraisers connect those who give with those who need.
Roxanne Fiddler is the Philanthropy Manager for Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO) in Baltimore, MD. To learn more about the wonderful work that GEDCO is doing to provide affordable housing with supportive services to low-income communities, be sure to visit their website at www.gedco.org.