Bill Stanczykiewicz (BS): Here’s a simple message to engage your board, your staff, and your volunteers, in order to strengthen the fundraising for your nonprofit.
Today, I’m joined by my predecessor, Dr. Tim Seiler, who led The Fund Raising School for 20 years and now is the Rosso Fellow in Philanthropic Fundraising. Tim is an often sought-out national and international expert on fundraising.
Tim, we have the 14-stage fundraising cycle, and you often say that failing to plan is planning to fail.
There’s another way to discuss fundraising planning, and that’s using the six rights. How can fundraisers use this paradigm?
Dr. Tim Seiler (TS): I’ve come to understand over the years that the fundraising cycle is complicated and complex. I still believe in it, but I think it is more of an organizational strategy cycle than it is a fundraising cycle.
The six rights include having the right person, asking the right prospective donor, for the right gift for the right program, at the right time and in the right way.
When I talk about those six rights, I usually say fundraising is simple; it’s just not easy. Identifying those rights is where the complexity arises.
Who is the right person or persons? This can be one or more people on your team.
The right prospective donor has to be identified at his or her ability to give at the level that you want to ask for. He or she has to be interested in the organization – there has to be some inclination to be philanthropic, and direct that philanthropic gift towards the organization that solicits it.
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of nonprofit organizations have several programs or services that they offer and donors might want to make a choice. In doing our prospective donor research, it’s important to identify the right program. Part of fundraising, and development as a broader category, is communication. Part of communication is gleaning information – asking the right questions of the prospective donors so that we know what their interests are. We’ll make a stronger case based on donor interest. The right program is what the donor is most interested in. Things do change though, so we have to prepare for that as well.
The right gift can be a little trickier. The right gift historically from the fundraising perspective has been let’s determine the right amount to ask for and then let’s ask for it. What’s the right gift, or what’s the right amount to ask the donor for? If we can’t determine a specific amount, then we have often referred to the gift range chart, and then asked the potential donor if he or she would give a gift from a certain range. As fundraising has become more effective, major gift officers have also become more effective in teasing out that information from the donor. In other words, asking them what they think of is the right gift for this program or campaign?
So somewhere in there is the right gift to ask for, in terms of the specific amount, a range, or what the donor might be thinking.
And in the right way – we would continue to argue that in most instances, that’s sitting down and just having an honest conversation saying, ‘We know you care about this. Will you be willing to support us at this level or at a level you deem appropriate within the context of this campaign?’
We know there’s a growth in fundraising in other ways and evidence suggests that those strategies are pretty effective, including e-fundraising. That’s growing the base of donors in a lot of instances, and that works.
If you’re talking about the right gift as a special gift or a major gift, that probably needs to be solicited in a face-to-face solicitation or in a personal conversation.
BS: Fundraising is a management function, and is part of overall management of a nonprofit organization. The six rights, in my view, are very handy as we try to engage with people who are actually doing the fundraising for the organization.
How do we communicate this so that more right people are helping us find the other right prospective donors? I’m thinking about board members, volunteers, donors. How do we communicate this across the entire organization?
TS: I use the old cliché about connecting the dots. Sometimes it’s donors, or board members, or volunteers. Sometimes it’s the program staff within our organization who are connected to or linked to the prospective donors whom we’d like to meet or give a gift. We can ask these people if they can help us make a connection to potential donors. They can identify and they can help us in qualifying the gift, such as identifying the right amount or right program. A lot of the time the volunteers who are peers of the people with whom we are seeking the gift from can help us in terms of developing the right kind of plan to set up the conversation, to explore the interest, and ultimately to earn the right to ask for a gift.
BS: On volunteers, research shows that if we treat our volunteers well, 80 percent of them could become donors and introduce us to others who could potentially donate.
Along the right person line – people say that they’re not on the C level. How do we encourage these people to see themselves as the right person in this six rights paradigm?
TS: A lot of times it’s just at the level of how you know someone. You’re a neighbor, or you work together in the same organization even if your titles are different. Maybe you’re not a peer economically, but you can be a peer in other ways. We talk about peer solicitation and proportional giving and proportional asking: you can give more or give less depending on your standing and capacity to give. As long as there is mutual respect between the persons involved in the conversation, I think it can work.
BS: We can engage everyone through these six rights of fundraising.