By Elaine Weber-Nelson, Consultant
Capital campaign counsel, board development, awareness-building
I’m working on a feasibility study for an organization in Stillwater and am in the process of talking to a wide variety of people about the project. I always find it fascinating to have these in-depth conversations with complete strangers. They tend to be very candid with me – for the good of the organization—though sometimes they see me as a conduit to share something that bothers them as well. I’ve sat in kitchens and boardrooms and bank offices listening to people share what matters to them. And as I compile all the responses into a report and fit all the pieces together, I am so grateful there are people like that in the world—people who love something and are willing to fiercely support it.
As it applies to fundraising for an organization, recognizing a “love of something” can help overcome the fear of asking for support for it. The fear of appearing too pushy or making assumptions about someone’s financial abilities. . . or the crazy (but very real) belief that if people care about an issue, they’ll step up themselves; that we shouldn’t “have” to ask.
But we do have to ask. Few people wake up one morning and decide to support a nonprofit. If we can get our heads around the idea that the ask is an invitation, it takes on a different tone. Asking someone to support something tells them it matters to you – and you think it just might matter to them. Asking someone to support something opens the door for them to feel about the organization the same way you do. Someone once described fundraising as a marriage – you don’t propose on the first date. And you don’t ask for financial support as an introduction to a mission. We need to cultivate those relationships first so the marriage can happen if it’s a fit.
Where would we be without all the good that nonprofit organizations do in the world? Where would we be if good people didn’t step up and tell others they care about whatever the issue might be? In light of some of the terrible tragedies we have recently faced as a nation and as a world, those conversations I’m having remind me that there is an enormous amount of good in the world. And I’m fortunate to be in a profession that can celebrate it and support it.