Fundraising, and life, is full of paradoxes. I think there is one we need to be more aware of – ask not what can you ask people to give, but what can you give to people?
A story to illustrate my point.
My first fundraiser was when I was about five years old. We were camping with the caravan (no jibes now) on the west coast of Scotland just up from Oban near a place called North Connel. The farmer llowed us to place the caravan in a field close to the beach. The beach was awesome. Rolling sand dunes to tumble down and a great stretch of golden sand. It was a fab summer too.
To get near to the beach most people drove down a track. This took them through a gate right past our caravan. And that’s where I spied my opportunity (although I didn’t realise it at the time).
Because there was a working farm the gate had to be kept closed. Here is a cute picture of me, in red wellington boots (use your imagination) at the gate.
It was a real hassle for car drivers to stop their car, open the gate, drive through and close it again. So if I was nearby I would open if for them. I don’t recall how the first ‘donation’ came but others soon followed.
As the caravan was nearby I could race out when a car approached and swing open the gate, resting on the bars as the car carried on through, and (this bit felt important) … smile. That’s when the car window would wind down (although it was such a hot summer it was usually down anyway) and a few coins would be passed my way. To me it was a small fortune. I could stand by the gate at the start or end of the day when everyone was arriving or leaving. It was a great way to supplement my pocket money and my first taste of fundraising (ok the cause – ice cream aid – was a bit dubious).
So the point of my story is simply this – more than ever I think we need to give something of value rather than just take or ask. Ask “what can we give to our supporters and donors?”. Just asking the question might help you look from a different perspective. When I met supporters whilst working for ActionAid I was struck how often donors, even major donors, said that they weren’t ‘giving’ they were ‘receiving’. It’s a paradigm shift that I think we need into todays world. You might be surprised at what you can offer them – a great feeling, an unforgettable experience, or even expertise and advice (but not a private dinner to meet the Prime Minister in return for £250,000 which was a lead story in the UK recently). Ideally you want it to be ‘sticky’ i.e. something you can promote that helps attract your target audience to you.
And in return they will gladly help you and give back in return.
And dont forget to smile 🙂