As the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts’ and while I’m not suggesting that knowledge is useless, in the world of fundraising, relationships are top dog.
So who do you know?
Clients come to me to help with their fundraising (obviously, that’s what I do after all!) but often they also expect me to bring ‘my networks’ along with me.
This is a common misconception when it comes to fundraising.
Do I have networks? Yes, absolutely. I even know a few seriously rich people who can make a significant difference. But are they likely to give to one of my clients that they have no existing relationship or affinity with just because I ask them to? Nope.
When I work with boards and ask the question ‘who are in your networks’ I’m often met with a room of blank faces and comments like ‘we don’t know anyone’. I get it, I really do.
More often than not, board members think that it’s true, they don’t know anyone. Or they don’t want to hit on their friends for money. And 9 times out of 10, that’s because they’re thinking they don’t know the big hitters. The well-known entrepreneurs or the philanthropists widely acknowledged to support nonprofits like yours. But the reality is that, when you’re looking at potential places/people who will give you money, you have to give consideration to RELATIONSHIPS.
That might be a scary thought if you’re a small charity with a board who are not rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers – but relationships don’t just have to be about that. You should also take into account who you know that has the ability to introduce you to those people on your prospect ‘hit list’ – and not just the prospects themselves. So you may not have a direct line to the donor of your dreams but, on closer investigation, do you have a relationship with someone who can introduce you to that person?
If you’ve decided to use the (relatively) quiet summer months to look at planning. Why not give consideration to your prospect list and its development too?
1. Start by writing down your top 20 prospects – ideally, you’ll do this exercise with your board
2. Review this list and get it down to 10 who have an AFFINITY with your organisation and what you do; the CAPACITY to give at the level you need and the ABILITY to be reached by you.
If they don’t meet all three of these criteria, take them off the list – or move them onto a lower priority list. For example, if they fit the first two but not the last, look at their networks and consider how you can reach them in the longer term. If they don’t have the capacity, move them onto your second tier prospect list that you approach at a later date. But if they don’t have the affinity consider them unlikely to give to you.
3. Once you have your top 10, start to work up an approach strategy for each (with your board) based around both their affinity with your charity and the way that you are going to reach them. Ideally, if these are high level prospects, you want a board member to take responsibility or be involved in the approaches for at least 1 of them (depending on how many board members you have, of course).