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Upping Your Game: Lessons Learned from Fund Development Institute

Upping Your Game: Lessons Learned from Fund Development Institute

Guest Post by Kelly Seward, Community Events Manager at Metro Lutheran Ministry

Applications for Fund Development Institute (FDI) in Fall 2018 are now open. FDI is a 3-session, hands-on workshop that builds basic fund development skills, introduces advanced techniques and helps development staf find and focus time for the essential work of fundraising. Learn more here.

As a long-time programs and events professional, I assumed my hang-up with development was “the ask.” But as it turned out, asking someone to support programs and a mission I care about really isn’t that hard. I realized that my real issue with fundraising was that I simply felt unprepared. A lot rides on the development staff and I felt like my bits and pieces of information were just not enough to ensure the success of a program, or organization.
Nonprofit Connect’s new Fund Development Institute (FDI) is a game changer. Within the first hour, the facilitators laid out a comprehensive model that made me think, “oh, I can totally do this.” Each session was a deep dive into their proven methods and techniques, addressing many of the questions I had about prospecting, stewardship calendars, and even ways to turn a conversation to money.  
Here are just a few of the lessons that made a difference for me:

  1. 3-3-1 Productivity Rule. Keep your productivity high and momentum moving forward by reaching out to 3 new contacts and 3 follow-up contacts every day. Also make time to do 1 creative (or celebratory) activity to keep you energized and connected to your passion.   
  2. T.A.P. (Time, Amount, and Purpose). Go into every meeting knowing whether or not you’re asking for a gift. If you’re not, ask yourself, “Is it the right time? The right amount? The right purpose?” Focus the conversation so that you learn the answer to at least one of these questions before you leave. Remember that no ask should come as a surprise to the donor; they should be primed and expecting your proposal.
  3. You can’t educate your way to a gift. People don’t give because they’re impressed with your stats, history, or technical program descriptions. They give because they want to respond to a challenge, take up a fight, or fix something that breaks their heart. Review your communications and make sure they reflect impact, not need.
  4. Listen. People will tell you what they care about if you ask. Questions such as “can you tell me why you give and what keeps you giving?” or “can you help me understand where our organization might fall in your priority list for giving?” will give you valuable insight. Jump onto their hook instead of expecting them to jump onto yours.
  5. Hope is not a strategy. At the end of every meeting, create a contact report that includes specific next steps for the donor and then add that follow-up to your calendar. Research shows that if you follow this discipline, you are 7 times more likely to get a gift!
Fundraising is hard and requires a tremendous amount of discipline and work. As nonprofit professionals, we have the opportunity to do this work alongside people who share our passion for creating the world as it should be.

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