Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Another Lesson From The Politicians

January 10th, 2014 by Karen Climer

Earlier this week, I mentioned how we can learn something from political fundraising.  Politicians have a short period of time to raise a lot of money, so they can’t afford to mess it up.

Everyone who works for a political campaign, from the candidate to the grassroots volunteer, is a fundraiser.  Everyone, as in every single person involved with the campaign.  Everyone knows that raising money is a top priority, and everyone is involved in fundraising in some manner.  Furthermore, the candidate (i.e., the CEO) is the chief fundraiser.  If there is an important request, the CEO does it.  He doesn’t send the campaign manager (i.e. development director or major gifts officer.).  The campaign manager might drive the process, but the candidate is heavily involved.

So, how can we apply this to our local nonprofit?  Be sure that fundraising is a priority for everyone in the organization.  It is our job as fundraisers to show others how they can be involved.  For example, the box office manager of the local opera company might not realize the role she can play identifying prospects.  It’s our job to educate and involve her in the fundraising, then recognize her for her help.  (That recognition part is important.  Treat your colleagues with the same care and respect as you do your donors.)

The leadership (i.e. CEO and board) must be involved as well.  I know you can raise some money without the leadership involvement.  Just as a politician can get some votes even if he stayed walled up in the campaign office for a year.  But we are not looking for some money — we are looking to maximize effectiveness.  In order to do that, it involves everyone.

P.S. Don’t worry – this isn’t turning into a political campaign blog.  I promise next week I won’t talk about politics.

Posted in Asking, Organizational Culture

2 Responses

  1. Lynn

    I totally agree and have tried to implement this in many organizations – with people running and screaming saying “I will not ask people for money!” What those people do not realize, is that if you work for a nonprofit, you are already asking for money. Be it through speaking, giving a tour, or answering the phones. You are automatically associated with that organization thus you are asking for money.

  2. Karen Climer

    Campaign staffers and even volunteers are generally comfortable asking for donations for the campaign. Those same people are uncomfortable asking for money for the local homeless shelter or hospital or museum. I think part of it has to do with the reason people give to a political campaign. People give $20 to a presidential campaign, which needs $1 billion, not because the $20 will buy a lot of advertisements. People give to a political campaign because they want to join the fight. For some reason, I think it is easier for Joe Public to ask for money when they are fighting for a cause instead of helping people. Maybe that why we have so many organizations that are fighting. We are fighting for a cure. Fighting to end illiteracy. We have a war on poverty. (That makes no sense, by the way.) My personal favorite is our fight to end domestic violence or child abuse. It’s almost like a fight to end a fight.

    Politics has taught us that people become more passionate when they are fighting for their candidate. Sometimes, they are so passionate about Mr. Candidate that it is only natural for them to want others to join them. Our challenge as fundraisers is to engage our volunteers so they are so passionate about our organization that it is only natural for them to want others to join them.

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