Friend-raising Requires Fundraising

Often when we work with nonprofit organizations and even churches, we see an active willingness to organize what is called “friend-raising” events. We hear apologists claim that these events will easily lead to increases in membership or the number of donors and the amounts they give. In fact, one CEO said, I’d rather have friends than donors in my organization.”

Labor Intensive and in Need of Followup

First, events are labor intensive and they put considerable stress on staff. They should either end in or at least lead to the bottom line results measured in increased membership, donations or both. However, to achieve that also requires a plan with active follow up requests. If results don’t happen the organization should re-think whether the event is worth the effort.

Second, related to the first point is the fact that cultivating friends and attracting folks to non-profits is important and valuable. However, the problem with many organizations is that it never gets beyond that point. Whether it’s fundraising in a nonprofit organization or a church, funds don’t get raised without someone asking someone else to make a commitment.

But the Board is not a Fundraising Board

The question is often asked of our associates, “Well what if the board is not a fundraising board?” The answer to that one is simple. There is no such thing as a non-profit board that is not a fundraising board. Now that might be slightly different in a church, but even in church capital campaigns, someone must ask someone else for funds.

That’s why according to a 2017 Leading with Intent survey of 1378 participants revealed that most nonprofits (68%) have policies requiring personal contributions from the board, and a similar amount (67%) explain expectations related to fundraising during recruitment.

In light of the fact that government support (federal, state and local government) for nonprofits is declining, the need for private philanthropic support is growing. Now more than ever, nonprofits need board members to be active in fundraising.

Of course there are lots of ways board members and other volunteers can be involved besides making solicitation calls. Some host receptions in their homes; others open doors, set up appointments and even accompany the CEO or development officer as they make “the ask;” still others are involved in making “thank you” calls.  All of these strategies are important in increasing donations.

In fact, one study showed that when donors receive follow up “thank you” calls from board members within days of making the gift:

  • 93% said they’d give again if asked
  • 84% would “make a much larger gift” and
  • 74% would “continue giving indefinitely.”

Staff Members Need to be Active

Nonprofits also need staff to be active in fundraising. When I was a vice president in higher education, we regularly tracked cultivation and solicitation visits. Staff members had goals and we helped one another achieve those goals. There was accountability, but that kept us on track.

I remember asking one associate at our weekly staff meeting about the status of a major donor. He told me simply that he was cultivating him. After several weeks of this, I realized it was a pattern. I could see he was busy, but the results weren’t there. There were no major or capital gift requests in his plans; only cultivations. Finally I told him what I’ve told many of our nonprofit clients: continuing cultivation without an eventual harvest results in waste.

In quite a few organizations, people are rarely asked. In fact, the Leading with Intent study showed that only 40% of nonprofits have board members actively involved in fundraising. It’s certainly important to cultivate friendships, but if nonprofits are to advance, those friends also need to become donors.