I’ll never forget how I learned how to raise $10,000 in an hour.
Before I get there though, I have to say that some things you learn the hard way. In my first couple years of work as a professional fundraiser I learned a lot about how not to do things.
Classic example: In my first year I struggled to lead a sprawling committee of volunteers and hospital employees (I worked for a hospital) through months of agonizing planning for a huge gala event. It was super rough.
In the end we only made a few thousand dollars in profit from the event and I was just relieved to not be in the hole.
A year or so after this messy attempt at fundraising I had my first experience of asking a couple for a large donation.
I sat down with them and, after some small talk, asked for $10,000 to support a certain project. They agreed on the spot.
In less than an hour I had raised more cash than it had taken both me and a committee endless hours and huge stress to achieve with my gala event.
The key to success
What was the difference between these two experiences? What made one fundraising method effective and the other a dud?
The answer is as simple as it is frustrating to newbies: effective strategy. “What does that even mean??”
Well, for starters, if you just dive into fundraising with blind faith and zero tactics you may get lucky and raise some cash but generally your results will be terrible.
Getting to the point where you have a relationship with potential donors and you can ask them for $10,000 (or much more) takes careful thinking.
You want to woo them to your cause. There are several critical elements in effective fundraising strategy but in this post I want to start with the most important one: relationship.
Let’s get back to my good news with the $10,000 “ask”. The reason I was successful was that I had a very strong relationship with my donors. They knew why I was visiting them and they were ready to help.
Do you have a dream of supporting a big cause or starting a really innovative new business? If you do, you are going to need support.
Woo your people
Make sure you surround yourself with the right people, with people that make things happen. Treat these people right.
Support them and do all you can to understand them and help them out. Be the best colleague/club member/tennis partner they have. Hook them up when you can. Nurture your relationships. Bring your very capable friends close to your cause. Talk big, share your passion, ask for ideas. Make the friends that you would like as donors feel invested in what you are doing. They should feel part of the action, like they and their input matters. They are your VIPs.
When the time is right, you can ask for their help and chances are they will be very, very helpful. Possibly even “$10,000 helpful”.