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Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face

Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face

David Lansdowne

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Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face
A 1-Hour Crash Course on Raising Major Gifts for Nonprofit Organizations

by David Lansdowne, 110 pp.

From the first page, you and your board will be hooked on this one-hour-to-read book. The warmth, the encouragement, the perfectly tuned examples, the occasional humor – it’s an inviting package that draws you at once.

Even Jerold Panas, the 800-lb gorilla of fundraising and author of Asking, is effusive with praise:

“David Lansdowne has achieved the near-impossible. He has transformed a classic work that’s guided tens of thousands of board members and made it better – significantly better.”

Without wasting a word, Lansdowne distills the essence of big-gifts fundraising into 43 “realities,” and explains each principle and technique in a way board members will understand immediately.

Put this classic in your board’s hands, in their orientation packet, in their annual meeting folder, in their workshop handouts. Put it anywhere you need the art of fundraising illuminated in a masterful, uncomplicated, and engaging way.

About the Author

David Lansdowne is author of Fund Raising Realities Every Board Member Must Face, one of the bestselling titles in fundraising history. David has spent much of his professional life in the nonprofit sector, serving in development and administrative positions for educational, cultural, and health organizations throughout America.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jerold Panas

  1.  In Close Company
  2.  The Mission Must Be Defined                   
  3.  The Buck Starts Here                                
  4.  Most Everyone Dislikes Asking               
  5.  Be Ready or Regroup                                 
  6.  Money Costs Money                                 
  7.  Make Your Case                                            
  8.  Individuals are the Target                         
  9.  A Few Contribute the Most                      
  10.  Think in Thirds                                       
  11.  Interviews are Revealing                          
  12.  Consultants Will and Won’t                     
  13.  No Goal, No Objective                            
  14.  Calling All Recruits                                        
  15.  Those Who Set the Goal, Set Their Sights                           
  16.  Publicity is No Substitute                         
  17.  Special Events are Double-Edged            
  18.  Forego the Fancy                                       
  19.  Wealth Alone Doesn’t Determine            
  20.  That You Need, Won’t Inspire                
  21.  Come a Little Closer
  22.  What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You                           
  23.  Who Leads, Influences Who Gives          
  24.  Time Commands                                      
  25.  Stay on Top or Go Under                        
  26.  Training Begets Bigger Gifts                   
  27.  The Secret to Success                        
  28.  Those Who Ask Must First Give              
  29.  Not All Donors are Equal                          
  30.  Each According to His Means                  
  31.  Big Before Little                                      
  32.  Teams Work                                            
  33.  Overloaded Solicitors Underproduce                
  34.  Make a Match                            
  35.  More Alike than Not                                 
  36.  No Apology Needed                                 
  37.  Work Your Core                 
  38.  Get Personal                                             
  39.  Go Figure                                                  
  40.  Ask or All is Lost                                     
  41.  I Shall Return, Maybe
  42.  Gratitude to One and All                         
  43.  Your Donor is Waiting              
  44.  An Evaluation Enlightens                             
     One Last Thought


This article is excerpted from David Lansdowne's book, Fund Raising Realities Every Board Member Must Face, ©Emerson & Church, Publishers. To obtain reprint permission, please call 508-359-0019 or email us.

Three Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face

Major gifts campaigns come in all sizes and shapes.

There’s Harvard University’s $6 billion drive that’s now underway and probably in your town there’s an art museum or hospital hoping to raise $100,000 or even $10 million.

Regardless of their size, however, the dynamics of a campaign remain the same. For this excerpt from my book, I’ll focus on three of them.  

Reality No. 1: The Mission Must be Defined

“We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.”

“Make Phoenix the safest major city.”

“Establish ourselves as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world.”

There’s no mistaking the mission behind these words of John Kennedy, the Phoenix Police Department, and Starbucks.

They don’t say “We’ll get close to the moon,” or “Make Phoenix cordial,” or “Brew a good cup of Joe.” Instead, they define a clear and specific goal.

As a board member, that’s your charge, too, before embarking on a fundraising drive. You want distilled clarity on your organization’s mission - and agreement by all.

It may take a half-day retreat or several board meetings to achieve this, as the questions are rigorous: 

  • Why does our organization exist?
  • What makes our organization better, or more effective, than similar ones?
  • Are our priorities clear?
  • What are our major strengths and weaknesses?
  • How can we improve our services?
  • What are our long- and short-range objectives? And,
  • Where do our resources come from and are they sufficient?

And just because you’ve been around since Lincoln Logs doesn’t mean you can ignore this step. The American Heart Association, founded in 1924, still reviews its mission regularly. In her book, You’ve Gotta Have Heart, Cass Wheeler, former CEO of the organization, tells why: "The environment changes and the organization changes, so a periodic review is important to ensure that there is alignment of purpose and reality."

You can be sure that would-be donors, before pledging sizable sums, will lob tough questions your way. If you hope to secure their support, you must be able to articulate your mission and describe viable plans for reaching your goals.

Reality No. 2: The Buck Starts Here

Every field has its first principles. You might call them axioms to live by.
For Apple Computer, Steve Jobs’s mantra was “No Compromises.” For serious journalists, the first obligation is to the truth. Physicians since the 5th century BC have been guided by the words of Hippocrates: “First do no harm.”

Fundraising, too, has a first principle. It is that boards have an obligation to give and to get. The “get” part we’ll cover in later chapters. Here, let’s focus on board giving.

Some organizations actually prescribe a giving level for board members. One prominent college recommends a gift equal to its yearly tuition. An established arts center suggests $50,000 per year. More affordable is the request from a mid-Atlantic advocacy group: $2,500.

That’s one bold approach. The more common one is for organizations simply to encourage each board member to make a generous gift. Some even spell out what generous means in the job description: “While serving on the board, I commit to making our organization one of the top three charities I support each year.”

Regardless of your organization’s approach, your gift is critical.

First, by virtue of your position, you are expected - by the staff and by the community at large – to be the organization’s steadfast supporter. Can you legitimately expect others to give generously if you won’t?

Second, your gift is tangible evidence of your commitment. Nothing says “I believe in this cause” more convincingly than writing out a check.

Third, your generous gift gives you standing as a solicitor. “This cause is so important, Tom, that my wife and I have pledged $5,000. I’m hoping you and Alicia will join us in making a gift.” Your credibility is undermined if you have to say to your prospective donor, “To tell you the truth, I haven’t given anything myself.”

It may not be what you expected when you came aboard. And probably you can list a dozen reasons why giving now is inconvenient. But you accepted the job and what comes with it. 

Make your gift, if you haven’t already. You’ll feel good, and you’ll smell good, too. You have it on the word of Confucius: “A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.” 

Reality No. 3: Most Everyone Dislikes Asking

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 19 million people have specific phobias.
The most common include fears of snakes, spiders, heights, and water. Fear of public speaking and fear of flying are also widespread phobias.

But I’m sure the ADAA slipped up. The fear of asking for money isn’t even in the top 30, which is crazy, since every executive director and development officer will confirm that 95 percent of volunteers suffer from it.

In fact, we’ll summon just about any excuse to avoid asking:

- I give my time, that’s enough.
- I don’t know the right people.
- Fundraising is belittling.
- Raising money is the job of the development staff.
- If I ask, I know they’ll ask me back.
- My Corolla needs washing.

But recall that board obligation to give and to get. Well, raising money is the getting part. It’s your organization. Its steward is that person you see in the mirror.

That means, among other things, asking friends, neighbors, and colleagues to join you in furthering the cause. If that fuels anxiety, you can either reach for Xanax or tamp your anxiety by keeping the following in mind:

- You aren’t asking for yourself. That would be distressingly harder.
- You have nothing to gain financially.
- You’ve already testified to your own commitment by making a gift.

And, always remember that asking is like proposing to your girlfriend: you gotta be there. “We convince by our presence,” is how Walt Whitman put it. Almost no one will give a large gift unless you stand before them and ask.

It makes sense, too. When’s the last time YOU gave $25,000, or even $2,500 because the urge struck?