I Hate Wearing Rubber Boots

I was driving home yesterday and saw a man walking up the street wearing a t-shirt that read “I HATE WEARING RUBBER BOOTS” while he was wearing rubber boots. Charities and the people who work in fundraising metaphorically face a similar situation. Instead they are wearing t-shirts with a slogan “I HATE ASKING FOR MONEY”.

In our industry we are still pushing envelopes into people’s mailboxes, reaching out through social media, organizing galas and walk-a-thons and other events that only have modest success in raising money. All of these approaches are high in cost and low in ROI, when considering how much an organization must pay for their staff time and the elements of a direct mail piece or a gala or other event.

It seems like fundraisers gravitate towards having events but hate asking for money. I have also heard from many in the industry that  they hate fundraising events but do them anyway.  What fundraisers don’t seem to like is getting in front of donors and selling their case by using the opportunities to educate the donors on how they benefit by using taxable assets when donating to charities.

The relationship between donors and fundraisers needs to be one that is long term in order to be truly effective, and there needs to be better communication between charities and donors.

Often only big institutions such as teaching hospitals and world class universities have tapped into sophisticated approaches which discuss strategic philanthropy as part of selling their case. Most other charities are still planning their next walks or galas. At some point board members should figure out that the return on the investment in staff time and cost associated with these types of “fundraising” activities generate a very high fundraising cost and a low ROI.

Financial service companies and wealth management firms already educate individuals about philanthropic planning. However, their approach is strictly to preserve assets for their clients by minimizing taxation. This is something charities have been shying away from over the years. Only recently have they become more interested in speaking to their constituents about estate planning.

Charities need to develop methods to facilitate conversations with individuals about funding which incorporate education which will show them the benefit in their philanthropy.  This should be a wake up call to all board members and fundraisers to become educated in the best ways to engage with their donors in order to give them the biggest bang for their buck when donating.

More resources should be invested in training and technology to assist fundraisers to be better at what they do and then their metaphorical t-shirt slogan can be “I LIKE ASKING FOR MONEY!”

- Bill