Create a Culture of Asking

David A. Mersky imageIn this coming year, what are you going to do to exceed your fundraising goals?

Invariably, when we are asked to counsel a nonprofit eager to increase its philanthropic revenue or raise a capital fund, someone will say to us, “We have no givers in our community.”

In the more than 20 years that we have been in business, we have come to understand that the leaders and stakeholders of virtually every nonprofit are, on the contrary, very generous.  They support many different organizations in their communities.  So it is not an absence of a culture of giving which holds these organizations back. In fact, we have concluded that it is the organization’s lack of a culture of asking which provides the major stumbling block to achieve its mission and fulfill its vision. But, how do you create a culture of asking?

While we believe in data driven decision making in terms of creating plans and setting goals for development programs—and use them through our own rigorous development assessment process—that is hardly the context in which we are engaged to assist most of our clients. Rather, most of our clients want to be shown the way to increase revenues in a more efficient, effective way, without all the struggle that they have experienced in the past.

In this space in past years—my monthly blog article—I have focused on the human resources in a series on governance and leadership development, in one instance, and managing the major gifts process, in another. In this year’s series, I will focus on what it takes to create the very culture of asking that assures the engagement and retention of donors in the context of the Annual Fund, the foundation of any nonprofit’s development program.   During the balance of this series we will address the essential elements that will enable you to exceed your fundraising goals, this year and every year thereafter.  The topics we will explore together are

  • A Strong Leadership Team—the essential element for success
  • Model Fund Development
  • The Development Cycle
  • A Four Stage Plan for the Annual Fund
    • Opening the Gateway
    • Cultivating the Relationship—the Value of the Follow-up
    • Making the Ask—From Preparation to Face-to-Face Solicitation
    • Leveraging the Donor—the Benefits of Stewardship

Last year, when I shared my major gifts management system with you, I said that I would not focus upon solicitation.  This year, however, despite the fact that there are many other resources available that focus on the fine art of asking, we will indeed look at everything else necessary to assure a successful major gifts program.

By completing this year’s series, you will position your agency among the high-performing nonprofits that meet the ever-increasing demands for their service with philanthropic resources to spare for emerging opportunities.  Moreover, development will be central to the mission of your enterprise led by a board and staff that experience great joy in the fundraising process.

NEXT MONTH: A Strong Leadership Team—the Essential Element of Success