Last night I spoke to the Board of the Montessori School in Wilton. Almost all of the members of the Board have experience raising funds, along with a strong commitment and willingness to raise funds. So I was cognizant of not wanting to “preach to the choir” or go into all those fundraising tactics, that – quite honestly – are primarily of interest to development professionals. What interests a Board member is different.
Volunteers are the backbone of any organization. And volunteers who are raising funds are about as good as it gets. So, what is the one thing that can make a volunteer feel comfortable about raising money? I think it’s simple. If you believe that the basic premise of raising money is “people give to people” – then fundraising is a conversation.
The very best fundraisers are people who know how to connect with other people; and connect in a meaningful way. They are not afraid to share stores, or values or the things that touch the heart.
Everywhere in America people today are raising money – after all, it’s event season. In communities throughout our country volunteers are working hard to stage galas and walks and benefits of all shapes and sizes. Many might be worrying about the food they will be serving, getting the right auction items or whether enough people will show up. This is all important. What is just as important, though, is how you engage your guests and tie them to your cause. And my suggestion is to begin a conversation with every guest or participant at your event by asking a magic question. A magic question is one that brings the conversation around to the services and impact your charity offers. A magic question explores stories, values and things that touch the heart. Here are three magic questions for you to bring along and ask at your next event:
1) How are you connected with this wonderful organization?
2) What brought you to this event?
3) Is there anyone you know that has been helped by the work this organization does?
Ask – and then don’t be afraid to share your own story – that is how conversations work.
Once you start sharing, then it is easy to see how “fundraising is a conversation”. And here is one other secret — conversations that focus on what really matters naturally progress to “how can I help”. And I think we know the answer to that question.