Reframing Your Approach: The Problems With Fundraising

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There are a number of potential problems that may hinder the success of fundraising efforts. Nonprofits – passionate in what they do – often believe they can bring donors into their camp simply with a discussion of the need that exists and the solution they offer. The problem with this approach is that it often disregards the current values and priorities of a potential funder, and fails to account for how difficult it can be to get a donor to adjust its course. In addition, nonprofits often standardize their language in a way that might not correspond with the language of a potential donor. The two sides end up speaking different languages. The moment a donor needs to translate a funding proposition into something it cares about is the moment a nonprofit has put all of its hard work at risk. The problem with these two approaches is they center on asking donors for a handout, rather than offering funders an opportunity. Offering an opportunity requires learning what funders want to accomplish and articulating how those objectives align with your work.

Convincing a donor of your way of thinking is difficult to do.

Traditional fundraising focuses on changing minds to create believers. Most nonprofits believe in what they do – on the need that exists and the solutions offered. When walking into a meeting with a potential funder, the aim is to convince the donor of a particular way of thinking, and to have them invest accordingly. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to lure someone away from the priorities, beliefs, and values they already subscribe to and are being paid to uphold.

When you build your case to a generic audience, you end up speaking a different language than the donor.

The language used to describe a program tends to be generic in the sense that the same description is cut and pasted into every grant proposal (and into every conversation). The problem with this is that the terminology used to describe your mission, values, or outcomes may be significantly different from the terminology the donor uses to articulate its mission and priorities. You end up speaking two different languages, and relying on the donor to translate your proposition into something the funder cares about. The moment you expect a funder to connect the dots for you is the moment you’ve put all of your hard work at risk.

By focusing too heavily on what you need, you may lose sight of what you are offering to the foundation.

Rather than asking for a handout, offer an opportunity. Investing in your program is an opportunity for foundations to fulfill their mission. The challenge with making this case is that you really have to understand what funders want to accomplish, and be able to articulate how that aligns with your work.

Click to open interactivity Learn how your expertise aligns with the needs of the potential funder.

Learn how your expertise aligns with the needs of the potential funder.

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