Over and over I hear board and staff members complain that they don’t know any “rich” people and my reaction is always the same: it’s more important to meet people with big hearts than big wallets.
Remember, the actual number of “rich” people in this country (or even in the world) is extremely small. Therefore the chances that one of them would be devoted to your organization is also extremely small. Also, “poor” people actually give more than rich people, at least in terms of their percentage of income.
So, it’s much more important to meet the right people, as opposed to meeting “rich” people.
The Two Characteristics of a Great Donor
There are two characteristics every donor to your organization must have, and without both they will never be a strong donor.
First, a person must have inclination. This means that they are “inclined” to give and have an interest in your organization. Knowing the richest people in the world won’t do a thing for your organization if they have no interest in your mission.
Second, they must also have capacity or some financial means to give. A person could have all of the desire in the world to give to your organization, but if they have no financial capacity, then it doesn’t do you a bit of good.
For the most part, you can’t change a person’s capacity. However, if you just had the opportunity, you might be able to change someone’s inclination toward your cause. So if you know how to meet wealthier people, you could convince them that your charity was important, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
Focus on People – Not “Rich” People
Let me go back to the point about how few truly rich people there are. Because of this fact, you should focus more on meeting people in general, and worry later about their capacity to give big bucks.
People who are treated as true friends of the organization are much more likely to give, and to give generously, than if they are merely treated as life-sized wallets or ATM machines.
So how do you meet people with big hearts and the capacity to give?
1. Use social media.
I encourage my clients and people who attend my training sessions and workshops to take advantage of social media when trying to connect with a specific individual. For example, if you know you want to apply to a specific foundation, but don’t know any of their board or staff members, use LinkedIn to determine if any of your connections might know anyone at that foundation and would be willing to make the introduction. Likewise, if there is a corporate executive or community leader you would like to meet, same thing.
2. Network, network, network, and leverage contacts.
You know the saying, “Six degrees of separation?” Well, that must mean that you know lots and lots of people, especially when you factor in your friends’ friends. It’s up to you to talk to as many people as possible until you identify people with both capacity and inclination.
Additionally, provide board members with training (at a retreat or regular board meeting) and groom them to become great advocates for your organization. You want them to be talking about you with everyone they come in contact with. Note that this method takes patience and diligence, but it’s worth the effort.
3. Recruit the best board members possible.
I talk a lot about recruiting and retaining great board members because that alone effects so many aspects of fundraising. Once you recruit one or two top notch members to your board (wealthy or otherwise), you’ll slowly be able to recruit more.
Meeting new friends for your organization takes time, patience, and persistence. While you’re working to meet new people, keep in mind that you already know many people who have an affinity for your organization, but who haven’t been asked properly. So be sure you’ve take some time to cultivate and ask prospective donors who are currently on your lists.
If you have other thoughts about how to meet good donors for your organization, please share in the comments.