Four crucial fundraising lessons from a music teacher

dreamstime_s_48132897My brother-in-law, Ross, is a music teacher, but last week he told me he recently got to play the role of major donor fundraiser on behalf of his school.
A few weeks ago he had a meeting with an old boy of the school who had previously expressed interest in making a gift to set up an annual music scholarship, enabling talented children to benefit from the schools’ excellent facilities.
The would-be donor had originally mentioned the sum of £100,000. By the end of a very pleasant afternoon chatting about music, the donor had happily committed to a much larger gift – £280,000.
This story reminded me of four valuable fundraising lessons for anyone whose job is to help people enjoy giving to good causes.
1)    Don’t over-think it. While I’m a great advocate that it’s wise to be organised, we must also make sure that all the technique and system does not make the process more complicated than it needs to be. Ross had not studied the Seven (or Eight or Nine) Steps of Solicitation, and yet through common sense he got the fundamental thing right, which is that giving to something you care about satisfies a fundamental human need, and on behalf of his school, he had an opportunity to facilitate that. So he proactively contacted the donor to set up the meeting.
2)    Rapport is immensely powerful. My favourite definition of rapport is ‘the feeling of having things in common with the other person’. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, Science and Practice, demonstrates that feeling you have things in common with someone causes you to like them more. The donor was a percussionist and this is Ross’s speciality too, so they spent most of their lunch talking about their favourite percussionists.
How well do you know your colleagues who deliver or manage the services your charity provides? The more of them you know, the better able you’ll be to match any potential donor with the colleague most able to build rapport with them when they visit your charity.
3)    Help the donor by asking for more. On courses I often meet fundraisers who are nervous of asking for large gifts, especially first gifts. Though new to this situation, Ross was willing to point out to the donor that a gift of £100,000 would mean that the scholarships providing this amazing educational opportunity would run out after a few years, but presumably he’d like to make sure that they lasted for longer. This was how he helped the donor walk away even more satisfied with the lasting difference he was making (nearly three times as much difference).
4)    Be prepared to seize the day. Ross and his head teacher had prepared paperwork before the visit. This meant that once the donor had decided to give, while he was still feeling inspired it was relatively easy to fill in the details and receive a heart-felt thank you in the head teacher’s office on behalf of the many promising musicians who would benefit from his decision.

  • Which of these four ideas could you apply to a current fundraising opportunity?
  • Who might find this story useful if you forwarded it to them?