Nonprofit Fundraising Advice from a Big Donor




A little Valentine’s Day bonus!

I didn’t intend to address fundraising much on this blog, but the economic crisis facing nonprofits and foundations has changed my mind. Besides, much of the advice below directly relates to communications.

This recent interview with Lorry I. Lokey, founder of business Wire, by The Chronicle of Philanthropy is worth a read. Mr. Lokey, a long-time supporter of education, has been included in The Chronicle’s list of America’s top donors every year since 2000.

His main pointers were:

  • Be realistic this year—donors are as affected by the economy as you are. Even if past donors can’t make grants this year, keep up your communications with them. These are your organization’s friends, and that friendship continues even when their giving levels go down. Demonstrate to them that your relationship is as solid in hard times as in easy times.
  • Be straightforward. Donors know why you’re contacting them–you want something. Don’t try to mask that fact.
  • Do Google searches on your major prospects to find out what their interests are—don’t approach someone who’s not interested in your issue.
  • Smaller nonprofits should start prospecting through referrals from friends and acquaintances. Build a base, then build on that over time. Where you succeed with a contact, get referrals from them for other potential donors.
  • Best approaches to new donors include as short (250-word maximum) letter, introduction through a mutual friend or acquaintance, or a meet-up at a gathering.
  • Introductions to potential donors through peers can have clout, but the real water-carriers are the organization’s development officer and the CEO. They need to be very well versed in the organization’s activities and successes.
  • Your organization’s representatives should be prepared to answer any question a donor or potential donor might ask—down to the financial nitty-gritty. If you don’t have the answer, research it and get back to the donor immediately.
  • Grants are not gifts, they’re investments. Treat donors like you would investors. Keep them informed about the return on their investments.
  • Build your endowment—not only to take you through hard times like these, but as a demonstration of credibility for potential donors. (Criteria Lokey uses in making choices:  1. Am I already familiar with the organization? 2. What do they have in endowment funds? 3. What is their reputation and degree of success? 4. What does the organization say they need?)

CC photo credit: wisforworlddomination


One Response to “Nonprofit Fundraising Advice from a Big Donor”

  1. S. Mojica Says:

    This is great, thank for passing on the comments.

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