December 15, 2018
 
Fundraising Success Flows from the Joy of Asking Donors to Give

Some nonprofit fundraisers are brash and even outlandish, others demure, but all share a deep belief in their cause. The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick tells how they succeed and, in so doing, provides valuable instruction on the art of fundraising.

The subtitle of this latest missive from Jerold Panas, a highly regarded author on nonprofit fundraising, puts it succinctly: Sizing up the attributes board members, volunteers, and staff must cultivate to secure major gifts.”

In a word, it’s about attitude. Panas writes that fundraising "is many short races, one after another. We face rejection and refusal head-on and respond with even greater dedication and determination."

He makes the point with example after example of how successful leaders exude an air of optimism and absolute conviction about the value and purpose of their fundraising mission: "To think 'impossible' strangles an idea at birth. Too often, it's timidity of spirit that leads to certain failure."

Panas makes his points by telling stories about makes for great fundraisers. For example:
  • Cultivation is at the heart of successful fundraising: You can't ask potential donors to make substantial gifts without first doing important groundwork.

  • A good memory is important. Some of the best fundraisers store prodigious levels of details about prospects that lets them engage personally with them on a meaningful level.

  • A deep reservoir of personal energy is almost mandatory. It's what enables outstanding fundraisers to reach great heights.

  • Commitment is everything. (Panas points out that Vince Lombardi never spoke the famous words attributed to him: "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." What he said was, "Winning isn't everything. But wanting to win is.") Superlative fundraisers don't get deflected from their objective. They accept no excuses. Like other high achievers, they create their own luck through dint of unswerving perseverance.
Most of all, to succeed in raising funds you need to be involved one-on-one at a personal level. Writes Panas, "You don't get milk from a cow by sending a letter. And you don't get milk from calling on the phone. You get milk by sitting next to the cow and milking it."

At its essence, The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick aims to bring the reader to understand a fundamental truth about raising money – that there is a joy in asking. Effective fundraising, to be sure, takes practice and personal discipline. But, Panas notes, "once they secure their first gift and taste victory, you can't hold solicitors back." That's because they see how they help donors reach similar levels of satisfaction in giving.

Ultimately, nonprofits that are to enjoy fundraising success need to develop a culture of asking.

Simply put, according to Panas, "Many organizations don't like a culture of philanthropy. They lack of a culture of asking." Assuming that wealthy prospects will give because it seems logical that they ought to is a non-starter. People want to be asked and expect to be asked. For fundraisers who are deeply committed to the goals of the organization, asking is about inviting prospective donors to share their vision. That's where the joy emerges.

The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
February 2016


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