This week we focus on fundraising as educating. However, I ask, who is being educated?
A. It is not about us educating donors, rather it’s about us learning about them.
When sharing advice about job seeking with students from Penn State’s online Certificate Program in Fundraising Leadership Ron Schiller of Aspen Leadership Group said be an “an interested and interesting person.”
Inside the Mind of the Curious Chameleon from EAB also speaks to being an interested person, listing “intellectual and social curiosity” as a top trait of successful fundraisers. I agree, but believe that successful fundraisers need to go beyond being curious. We need be willing to educate ourselves about each to donor. We need understand what motivates each donor to make a gift (reasons will vary). Similarly it is important to learn what might demotivate a donor (it may be difficult for some to believe, but it is possible to demotivate a donor).
B. Passion for a cause is key; however, we need to educate ourselves about the work being done by the nonprofits that we serve.
Why? Increasingly well-educated and discerning donors want answers to questions such as those posed in Harvey McKinnon’s book: The Eleven Questions Every Donor Asks (FYI I am not being compensated for recommending this book, I just think it is a great read).
We as fundraisers can only answer questions such as, why me and why your nonprofit, if we:
· Educate ourselves about the work done by the nonprofits we serve,
· Ask program and project directors why an intervention works, and
· Get our hands dirty so to speak. (Assist on the ground where appropriate maybe by helping a new client navigate a food pantry, wheeling a resident in a care facility to a meal or the hairdresser, and so on).
C. Only then are we positioned to educate donors about causes and the nonprofits that we serve.
As a faculty member, I encourage you to consider using a time honored and proven method used to facilitate learning:
1. Write down one to three learning objectives for each donor (you might even ask the donor what they want to know more about and write objectives for them).
2. Identify resource materials and persons to help meet the objectives, maybe a dean or program head, readings, a video, or site visit.
3. Share resources with, and introduce key educators to, the donor then “test” to determine whether the learning objective has been met.
If there were a quiz or test at the end of this process, there might be just one question:
Do you have enough information about the donor and they about the program or project that you are ready to ask them to make a generous gift at a particular level?
What about you? Do you see fundraising as educating? If so, do you have a success story to share? I hope you will comment as we can all learn from one another.
Sophie W. Penney, Ph.D., is the Senior Program Coordinator and Lecturer for Penn State’s online Certificate Program in Fundraising Leadership and founder of i5 Fundraising.