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June 25, 2022
Think of Fundraising as Barter, to Be Enjoyed
Book - How to Raise $500 to $5,000
Fundraising for many nonprofit board members is a chore to be dreaded, but if they think of it as a form of barter, where donors give something of value in return for something else of value, it becomes easier, even fun, according to Andy Robinson, author of How to Raise $500 to $5,000 from Almost Anyone.

How to Raise $500 to $5,000 is one of the latest in an ongoing series of so-called one-hour books for nonprofit boards, which, literally, take about an hour to read. What makes it compelling is that it is packed with time-proven approaches to fundraising that are direct, practical, and easy to implement.

Robinson, who has helped nearly 50 nonprofits since 1980 with fundraising and board development work, argues that fundraising, at its heart, is pretty simple: it is one person asking another to get involved, provide help, take a stand, join a movement.

First and foremost, he advises that fundraisers need to change their attitude toward money, that it is neither good nor bad. That’s where the notion of bartering comes in.

He writes, “In the old days, we used barter. I traded you a goat for a bushel of whet. Over the centuries, we gradually replaced bartered good with coins and currency...Nobody believes the goat is evil or the wheat is corrupt, so why do we ascribe these traits to pieces of paper and bits of metal?”

Robinson advises, “As a solicitor, your role is to educate your donors and learn how they want to be involved. You help them feel good about the gift. You facilitate a fair exchange.”

Why $500 to $5,000? Because that’s the size of gifts most donors give to nonprofits, and it doesn’t require them to consult a host of advisors before they donate. Among the tips he offers:
  • Give before you ask. Board members need to give, though it needn’t be a mandated amount, because sooner or later a prospect will ask how many board members gave. Being able to answer “100%” helps your cause.

  • Ask face to face. People will give you five to 10 times more money in person than they will through the mail or online and two to four times more than they will over the phone.

  • Be honest. Whether you are writing, phoning, or visiting, be clear that the purpose is to request a donation. Ambushing people by trying to connect with them for another purpose and then springing a request on them will annoy, and likely alienate, them.

  • Follow through. The worst thing is to send a letter saying you’ll call and then fail to do so. Your organization’s credibility depends on its fundraisers honoring their commitments.
Robinson follows up with guidance on how to construct a fundraising letter, structure phone calls, plan face-to-face meetings, handle objections, and decide how much to ask for. He also outlines nine questions that are relevant for every donor or visit designed to further engage prospects.

Few nonprofit board members are professional fundraisers, even at the largest organizations, and this is Robinson’s point: amateurs are full of passion and tend to inspire admiration for their courage. This gem of a book will help them succeed.

How to Raise $500 to $5,000 from Almost Anyone is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

May 2012
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