July 1, 2015

How to “Frolic” Your Way to More Donations

Do you want more donations to operate your nonprofit? Too often, individual fundraising becomes the task of the few. Alone or together, the development director and/or the CEO do the heavy lifting. They identify donors, build relationships, and ask for donations. Done this way, individual fundraising is like building a barn with just one or two people. You make slow progress and can feel overwhelmed.

If your organization uses the one or two people approach to individual donations, imagine what would happen if you used a process that involved everyone, such as the Amish use to build barns. The Amish hold one-day events. When the sun goes down the new barn is finished. Everyone is filled with a sense of accomplishment. The Amish call these community barn-raising events “frolics.”

What would a “frolic” look like if you used it to raise individual donations? Your development director and CEO invest more time planning and engaging others. They invest less time doing the development work by themselves. People grow relationships skills. People create opportunities to form new and steward existing relationships. Your nonprofit generates more current revenue and greater income stability.

In one organization, I helped to move from solo to frolic. Everyone started anxious. A few grumbled. A few were honest and expressed fear. With support, patience, education, and persistent messaging, they became enthusiastic and successful, raising 30 percent more in individual donations within the first six months.

To move from solo to everyone resource development, you need a process that includes at least these steps:

  • Imagine in detail your culture of resource development.
  • Name specific behaviors you seek from specific people.
  • Identify a “why.” Why is it in each person’s best interest to act on these behaviors?
  • Don’t assume know-how. Plot out how people will gains skills to master the behaviors.
  • Determine how to measure progress.
  • Invite everyone, including your board, staff, and volunteers, to help and stand beside when they try but fail.
  • Remove other barriers to being a culture of resource development. Read this fascinating article from the Boston Globe. You will find it gives you hope.

You can create a culture of resource development. While not simple or easy, it is worthwhile. Just like with an Amish barn-raising, with everyone engaged you’ll achieve more in a way that’s fun and build barns to use for years.

For more answers, check out the Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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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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