11.21.11 / Category: Volunteer Spotlights

The Fundraising Formula-Guest Blogger Rob Sheehan

Rob Sheehan, shares his expertise with Circle of Sisterhood supporters

Most foundations and nonprofits employ talented people to be their fundraisers, a job that isn’t easy, especially in uncertain economic times. The Circle of Sisterhood relies on volunteers. On You. In order for the Foundation to continue to do the work we do, we need our volunteers to recruit donors, utilizing personal networks and creative efforts. We can learn from the ‘professionals’. This post was reprinted with permission from the author to help those who aren’t comfortable making the ‘ask’ learn the simple formula behind it.

The Basic Fundraising “Ask”

It is a simplistic fundraising formula.  But I am a simple-minded guy.

The three words I always make sure to keep in mind when I discuss a possible gift with a prospective donor are Problem, Opportunity, and Challenge.  Though it is indeed a simplistic approach, I have found it to be very helpful.  It keeps me on track during a fund-raising conversation.  I have used it as a personal guide and I have taught it as a guide for others – especially for volunteer fundraisers.  A conversation with someone about making a gift should be sure to cover:

Problem.  This is where the Mission is discussed and it is the perfect place to discuss your organization’s Mission Gap – the unmet needs of those you serve.  “You may not be aware of this, but . . . . . and insert your own explanation of your organization’s Mission Gap.”  Example:  “Twenty percent of the adults in our county are not literate.”

Opportunity.  This is where you talk about your organization’s Vision.  You explain what you are doing now, but you then paint a picture of what more you want to do so you can close that Mission Gap and meet those needs more effectively.  “We have a dream that one day all adults in our community will be literate and we have programs that are proven to make a difference.”

Challenge.  “We understand the Problem.  And we have a Vision for what needs to be done to address it.  Our Challenge is that we do not have the resources at this time to begin making that Vision a reality.  Will you invest (insert your vision of their gift) to help us make that Vision come true for the benefit of those we serve?”

The nonprofit executives who do a lot of fundraising know that I am simplifying a lot here, but it is amazing to me how many people skip one or more of these basic steps.

There are many who chit chat and then go straight to the Challenge (“We need money!”) and ask for a gift.  The prospective donor is not given the chance to understand the magnitude of the Problem and worse, they are not given an Opportunity to dream about helping to solve the problem.

Perhaps still worse, there are those who explain the Problem in excruciating detail and then go directly to Challenge, without discussing the hope of the Vision.  Talk about a depressing conversation!

Vision provides opportunity.  Vision provides hope.  With Vision, we have a chance to make a difference.  Creating an Aspirational Vision for an organization that can help close the Mission Gap is vital to any fundraising effort.

And as we all know, funding is needed by all organizations in order to make even more of a Mission Impact.

Rob Sheehan is a former Executive Director of Alpha Sigma Phi and Past President of LeaderShape.  He is currently the Academic Director of the Executive MBA program at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and is also Principal of  Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting. For insightful articles like this one, you can sign up for his email list here.