The Top 1% doesn’t interest me…not their money, anyway

“Where are the donation envelopes?”

“We don’t have any.”

“Are you freaking kidding me?”

“Unfortunately no.”

“Where are people supposed to donate their money?”

“Bank transfer.”

Fundraising for non-profits – I am passionate about it. I have been doing it for a long time.

I’m a well-oiled fundraising/branding machine and I’m good at it. I go into a situation and immediately assess a few things.

First, I identify the problem areas. Usually, the image needs tweaking and the mission for the campaign needs to be clearer/updated/pertinent to more people than the smaller, inner circle. (And a huge “problem area” for raising money is usually the people that are in positions of power within the organization. They are the worst fundraisers because the reason funds need to be raised usually keeps these fine ladies and gents awake at night. They have been crunching numbers, begging, pleading for so long, they are death gripping the steering wheel…and it’s hard to get them to let go. Hard, but necessary.)

Second, I look at the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. I am ready to tell anyone who will listen the strengths and I am creative about what they are. I am also ready to defend the weaknesses with as much Texas charm as I can put on. (Always a challenge these days when the organization has a religious affiliation and what a horrible commentary that is on our society. Horrible these faith workers have to stop their good deeds to raise money and horrible we are embarrassed to claim “Jewish” or “Christian” or “Muslim” ties. Great thing about me, I’m a religious pluralist. I don’t have an issue with a person’s faith. I got a Jewish guy to donate 250K to a church in NYC. True story.)

Step five or six is my favorite. That’s when I have a peek at the existing donor base. It’s usually full of devoted people that have been approached for money every time there’s a crisis. Once I start working, I immediately call these people, thank them, and let them know we’re not interested in them…just their contacts. (True story, again.)

Then, I get to work. I don’t ask a lot of questions, I don’t need a ton of help (just a good, tight team), and I don’t need to be paid for it.

When I leave a project, the goal has always been met (or exceeded). Here’s what I mean by “goal.”

I don’t aim for big money donors. Naturally, I want to (and do) get the money needed. However, with my strategy, I get both the money I need and something far better than that…I get loyalty.

I will have a street fair, a book drive, a 2nd-hand shoe bazaar, a FB fan page, a Twitter hashtag, I don’t care…I don’t want the 1% of givers. I want the other 99%. I don’t want a lot of their money, just a little.

It’s their loyalty I want. I want them to get so passionate about the project, they cannot help but, as Bubs would say, “get involved.” I want the leaders of the organization NOT to have to repeat the fundraising in 10 years because only 8 people donated 8 million. I want a database. When a catastrophe hits, there are 8 MILLION PEOPLE READY TO GIVE. See how it goes? (Okay, 8 million is a lot, but it was a great image, right?)

I cannot imagine anything worse than hearing, “We are targeting a few key donors” when a fundraising project has started. Well, worse than that is probably, “We’re keeping the project hush-hush for a few months.” No, worse than both, “We don’t need your help.” That is something I would never say to a volunteer offering his or her time/talents or a person with only 5 cents to give.


Things need to change in fundraising. Obama’s campaign taught me that my gut instinct was right. It’s about the kid that gives 2CHF or $1.50 from his piggy bank. He’s gonna grow up and love the Hospice or CBSM or Genesis or St. John’s and and and. I need that kid.

And when that kid introduces me to his multi-billionaire granddad, I’ll smile and tell him, “Give us what you can, but just get involved, okay?”

He’ll give money, too. Know why? Because they both believe me. It’s easy to convince people when you’re authentic and honest…and real.

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