Mention the term “fundraising” in a crowd of professionals and you will see some eye-twitching! Many people consider raising financial support a necessary evil, but the reality is that the fundraising process can be done well. If you are losing sleep over your presentation, we have put together a brief list of five successful habits of professional fundraisers, just for you. Please consider the following:
- Professional Fundraisers build rapport. If you are looking to have any sort of business relationship, you need to build a foundation of trust and mutual understanding. A healthy business relationship is always professional, but also warm and kind. No two partnerships will look exactly the same. For example, if you are approaching a member of your immediate family for startup funds, your meeting will likely be more casual than one you would have with a referral. It is up to you to identify the relationship and also be able to read the other person. This is important in every stage of your partnership, from your initial support meeting to your maintenance of this relationship years down the road. Do not make the mistake of launching into your presentation before your prospective partner is ready.
- Professional Fundraisers have done their research. Much like preparing for a job interview, you need to study the people you plan to approach. What excites your contact? What kind of business is he or she in? You also need to know what the need for your product, service or program looks like. Who is your targeted audience? What other likeminded operations already exist to provide your product, service or program? Try to anticipate any question your prospective partner might ask you.
- Professional Fundraisers have a strategic execution plan. No clear-minded business owner would partner with someone who did not have a detailed strategy for executing a presented vision. You need to convince your prospective partner that he or she will see a good return on investment. You want to get your supporter excited about what you are doing! If he or she cannot envision the steps you will take to make your idea a reality, the risk will appear far greater, and the only emotions you will successfully invoke are anxiety and frustration.
- Professional Fundraisers share stories of real results. Nothing will grab your contact’s attention more than a captivating story. Did your idea stem from a unique encounter that you personally had? Then by all means, share your story. If you can provide testimonials of your product, program or service, then be sure to make room for them in your presentation. Your prospective partner might forget a lot of what you say, especially if your meeting is succeeded by many others, but stories are much harder to forget.
- Professional Fundraisers make big requests. You need to consider this final step in your fundraising presentation long before your actual appointment. Consider your relationship with this prospective partner. Have you known each other for a long time, or is this your first meeting? How much do you know about this person’s financial status and ability to contribute? Has this relationship been successful in the past, or are there still some loose ends which need to be tied? All of these factors ought to be considered when deciding on how much financial support to ask for. In the end, you do not want to sell your prospective partner short. Make a request that is wise but also bold, and be sure to make eye contact. Studies show that big requests will yield more dollars than smaller requests, even if partners cannot match the amount that you asked for.
Fundraising is a skill that anyone can learn- but it must be studied and practiced. Be sure to work hard on your presentation and run through it with a wise associate or friend before you make your phone calls. Now is not the time to cut corners, so plan carefully. Enjoy the process as much as you can. We wish you the best of luck in your venture!