The Big 7

One of my all-time favorite country songs is by Reba McEntire, “(The World Ain’t Gonna Stop for) My Broken Heart.” It’s had five million views on YouTube, by the way.

Our economy and our world are in a bit of tizzy at the moment. But as Reba suggests, life goes on. Fundraising does too.

At a time when you might be tempted to give up or, at least, to take an early summer vacation, here are the seven things I believe will keep you on the right path.

One. Don’t assume. “Don’t assume what?” you may ask. Don’t assume your donors do not want to give. History proves philanthropy is strongest in tough times. Don’t assume your donors do not have the means to give. Wealthy people spend a fraction of their income on necessities and none of their assets. Don’t assume your donors remember they can give to you via stock, or a Qualified Charitable Distribution from their IRA, or from their Donor-Advised Fund. Don’t assume your donors recall any of the good things your organization is up to these days.

Please. Don’t assume any of that.

Two. Do not wait until after Labor Day to begin a conversation with your donors about their year-end or their major gift. Because if you wait that long, the ship has likely sailed. Most donors make their giving decisions way, way earlier in the year than you can imagine. Many of those decisions will be made with their adult children, when the family is together this summer.

Three. Be a friend. To your donors, and to your colleagues as well. Kindness goes a long way these days.

Four. Have something to peddle. O heavens, I know you never ask a donor for money, you ask her or him or they to help your organization make something happen that is emotionally compelling to them. Do you have enough of those “arrows in your quiver” for the asks you’ll be making?

Five. Be of good cheer. And good news. In these times of distressing news all around, be one of the few people who always wears a smile and always has some good news, something uplifting, to share with your donors.

Six. Of course you do this all the time, but redouble your efforts to make your donors feel sincerely appreciated for their gift. “Mary and George, we’re coming to the end of our fiscal year and I just wanted to write (a handwritten note, that is) to say thank you. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”

And seven, if you need to do this, and many will, make certain you know who your Top 40 are. The Top 40 donors for your organization, or the Top 40 donors you are responsible for. We can’t build relationships if we don’t know who we should be building relationships with! The Top 40 is the intersection of those who have been most generous to you but also, blended with some potential donors of greatest capacity. “Who has the capacity, and who either has or could reasonably be expected to develop the interest to make a gift of consequence to us?” That is your Top 40.

Sadly, Reba’s song does not have a happy ending. Yours can.