We welcome back Paul Jolly, Director of Jump Start Growth, Inc., a nonprofit fundraising and consulting firm in Washington DC. Today, Paul tells about the importance of breaking the donor-donation barrier.
Many good therapists will tell you your achievements are limited only by your attitude. Organizations, as well as individuals, may have a mindset that limits what they can accomplish. Which means they work harder for less.
Consider, for instance, the sorry fate of many legal organizations. They provide critical services that might be the difference between home ownership and homelessness, between prison and freedom, between employment and unemployment. Yet many of them are hindered in their fund raising because they assume that their prospect pool extends only as wide as the legal profession. Any limitation on your audience is unfortunate, but limiting the prospect pool to lawyers is especially unfortunate because [insert your favorite lawyer joke here].
Many left-leaning advocacy organizations assume that they are limited to small contributions from middle class people because of their prejudices about the rich. A precarious budget is a mark of accomplishment for some organizations because it proves that they have not “sold out”. There is nothing wrong with choosing institutional poverty, I suppose, although I personally prefer a good night’s sleep to deficit-driven insomnia.
Sometimes limitations are written into the fund raising strategy. I worked once with an organization that builds houses in remote villages in Nicaragua. Each house costs $2,400, with $1,400 coming from an institutional donor. One of the staff members told me, “There are people who send $1,000 every time we ask them.” I inquired, “What could you do with a contribution of $100,000?” He answered that they could provide a well that would save women hours of walking to the river and prevent water-borne illness. Six months later, he called me and told me he had just gotten a check for $100,000 to dig a well.
Is your institutional attitude holding you back? Are you selling your good work short and thus pitching too low? Spend fifteen minutes doing an inventory of your organization’s views of affluence. Spend another fifteen minutes making a list of people who might write checks big enough to make you dance on your desk. Then spend the rest of the day scheming about how to strengthen your relationships with those people.
Paul Jolly of Jump Start Growth, Inc. can be reached at paul (at) jumpstartgrowth dot com.