September 15, 2016

When a Big Ego Gets in the Way of Fundraising

The president of a community college meets a 92-year-old man at the gym. The two become friends.

After a few months, the elderly gent shares that he would like to make a gift to the college in his lifetime. After six months of careful behind the scenes work by the college’s foundation office, the college receives a six figure gift.

The president announces, “I did it!”

Instead of excitement, the gift discourages. Woven into the president’s announcement is a message to the foundation staff: “See, that was easy. Go and do likewise.”

Fundraising can be about ego.

Or, you can make your fundraising a team sport, led by co-captains: the CEO and the head of development. In best practice organizations, everyone helps to obtain income. Everyone seeks to create and deepen relationships.

And, at the same time, the CEO recognizes that his or her executive status opens more doors.

What does this mean for you?

You’ll raise more if everyone helps.

How can you get more help?

Create a plan.

To start, identify your current status.

Rank, on a scale of one to ten, your organization’s use of a team approach to fundraising. A ten indicates active skill growth and everyone helping. A rank of five indicates willingness but low skills and knowledge. Less than five indicates no interest and even resistance or mythical thinking. (If only we knew Bill Gates.)

Besides ranking the organization as a whole, narrow your view and evaluate the following:

  1. Board
  2. Staff
  3. Management
  4. Development team
  5. Volunteers
  6. Other community members 

Now, pick one group. Think of five activities to move them from their current team approach ranking to a higher level. Conduct these and rank again.

Soon, you’ll be announcing, “We did it!”

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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