Your staff does so much. They work extra hours. They apply their talents, and you want to do more to recognize their efforts. Asking for staff to donate seems like too much. Is it?
Yes, if you think of philanthropy as a burden.
It’s not. It’s a gift.
Philanthropy is experiential. You can’t stimulate philanthropic giving with words. Talking to your staff about giving doesn’t work. You can’t just ask your staff to be more philanthropic. You don’t just invite staff to give.
Philanthropy works when you give first and make a large enough gift that you feel pinched. Why? Because then you understand. You understand what it’s like to stand on the should-I-give-or-not bridge. You know the sound it makes in your soul when you hear your footsteps on the bridge. At the bridge, you imagine spending the money for your own needs or those of your family. And you might experience regret. Then as you give your money, you feel a sense of loss of control and must trust in the promises the nonprofit’s making about how they will use your gift.
Giving until it pinches wakes you up. Fully awake, you notice details. These will prepare you to be with others standing on the far side of the should-I-give-or-not bridge. Like a scout, you go first and report back trail conditions.
Some 70 percent of Americans give money. My conservative estimate is that 99.9 percent of us that work in the nonprofit sector give. (See Never Fundraise Alone, How to Build Cultures of Philanthropy for more about why we are remiss when we don’t invite people to contribute.) We are philanthropists.
We give from our means to help others. Means include time, belongings, and money. All resources we might need, but instead, we share them.
Even though we are already philanthropists, we all hold the potential to develop into even greater ones. This opportunity includes all nonprofit staff.
In your nonprofit, how many of your staff give? If you’re serious about seeking individual donations set a goal to make it 100 percent. Yes, the money will help but what will help more is the wisdom giving until the pinch provides. To reach the goal, develop two metrics, one to measure the frequency of your asks and the second to measure the response. Calculate each month and be accountable to someone for your progress.
Managers with low-paid staff, who already work beyond the call of duty, frequently hesitate to ask staff for cash donations. This thinking denies employees the opportunity to be philanthropic partners. It denies staff philanthropic joy. It denies them the insights they need to help others give. Here’s what I mean, it stunts their ability to invite others to donate effectively.
Managers who don’t ask often feel guilty about working conditions. If this is you, replace your guilt with solutions. Find ways to improve wages and ease workloads. Commit to obtaining new resources or managing those you have better. Find ways to offer perks. Lori O’Keefe, CEO of the Triangle Community Foundation, recommended that corporate funders “increase their an additional 10 percent and earmark it for wellness and mental health supports” for staff. You might ask for this funding as part of all your request.
Besides replacing guilt with solutions, formulate ideas to reward giving. For instance, the Girls Scouts of Greater Atlanta brilliantly invites their staff to join their $1,000-a-year giving circle. Membership in the circle generates privileges! Circle members don’t work at fundraising events. They attend as guests. (This “rule” encourages more giving among non-staff donors. These donors love mixing with staff to get the “insider” scoop.)
Stop asking others to give by just using words. Go first. Cross the bridge. Give an amount that scares you or empties your wallet just once. Know the experience firsthand. Then, invite staff and others to follow.
For more answers, check out Karen’s Nonprofit CEO Library.
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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