Fundraising Q&A with Howard

At a recent virtual learning session, Howard fielded several interesting questions about fundraising from people engaged in a variety of philanthropic activities, worldwide. Here are two that we thought you might find interesting.

Question 1: I’ve heard that once you get money from a large charitable foundation, it’s easier to get money from other people. They see it as a form of “due diligence.” Is that true? And, if so, is it okay to mention them by name?

I don’t believe that it’s just a matter of laziness about due diligence.

Often, people want to be in the company of others, especially people they admire or like. Some people see it as an opportunity to leverage their giving; by being in partnership with other organizations, they’ll have a have bigger impact. (That, for what it’s worth, is how I feel personally, and position it with my prospects.)

Should you mention them? Many donors want anonymity, for a variety of reasons.

If you happen to be a Brazilian billionaire, you probably don’t want to advertise that fact. (Kidnapping for ransom is a popular sport, there.) If you live in Dallas and have decided to donate your art collection to one museum, you don’t want to make enemies of all the others.

Be very judicious with how you advertise people’s gifts. Ask them: “Do you mind if I discretely use your name? People know and respect you.”


Question 2: What if you are soliciting time, not money? We are looking for new board members, and some pro bono consulting help.

There’s a saying: “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.” (Do with that what you will.)

The same theory applies for soliciting time as for money. Don’t presume everyone cares. Caring is a prerequisite for their giving of time or money. Also, don’t assume that the first person to volunteer is the right person. Have you really thought about what you need, in a board member – their skills, experience, or networks?

I am reminded of one of my favorite stories. Big Daddy Lipscomb, an NFL Pro Bowl tackle, once was asked how he was so successful. He is reputed to have said: “I goes out and gathers me up an armful of players, and I throws ‘em away one at a time, and the one that’s got the ball, I keep.”

That’s one way to think and go about it!

Finally, thank people for their service.

My wife, Fredi, and I were shown a plaque that was to be prominently placed on the wall of an arts institution that we support. It said: “Thank you for generosity.” I said: “What about all the time we’ve spent helping the organization, on the board, and in fundraising activities? We would prefer ‘thank you for your service.”

They said “Good idea. We should do that for others, too.” I said: “That was sort of my point.” It’s not just about money.

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