Keep Money Coming In: Nonprofits’ Secret Sauce

Aug 11, 2021Donors, Fundraising, Leadership, Nonprofits, Philanthropy

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How can you survive and keep money coming in as a nonprofit development professional?

When you can't meet people in person, it's easy to get stuck at the prospecting and relationship-building stages. That’s why I’m providing tips for getting past that point and onto calls with potential donors

Nonprofit executive and development directors, as this environment continues to offer challenges, you may be canceling planned in-person events. 

And possibly an online event doesn’t work for your offering.


Can’t Keep Money Coming in and Feel Deflated?

I was talking with a student in my group coaching program whose team cancelled plans for an upcoming, in-person, gratitude event.

With so much energy expended going back and forth in whether to offer the event or not, she now feels the weight of the world is off her shoulders.

At the same time, she feels deflated.

Before this all hit, she was meeting with people, making new acquaintances, and securing large gifts!

But the brakes went on, eased up, and now the brakes are back on again. 

You see, it was just decided last week they are closing the office and all going back to working from home again.

Ok, Now What?

So here’s the big question she asked, 

Ok, now what?

How do I survive and keep money coming in?

More specifically, how do call and strike up a conversation with someone I have never met?

How do I keep a phone or video conversation going when I’ve exhausted all topics of interest and have nothing more to talk with them about?

Better yet, how do I keep calling the same people repeatedly and not feel like a nuisance?

You get the picture! 

Fundraising and relationship building feels daunting about right now, right?

No matter if you are new to fundraising or know the ropes, there are challenges today.

To get you moving, here are four strategies to consider to get you unstuck and raising money:

#1 Reframe Your Thinking

No doubt, fundraisers at large organizations, with 75 – 125 prospects assigned to them, may envy those smaller organizations that maintain a short list of major donor prospects.

If you are small shop, you have a beautiful opportunity to develop rich conversations and build deeper relationships with current and potential donors.

Your goal is to keep money coming in. 

So switch your thinking to, “oh, I have time and an opportunity to have focused and attentive conversations with people I have been meaning to connect with.”

Reframe Your Thinking!

#2 Create a Short Prospect List

No matter your size organization, create a short list of individuals with the potential to make a significant gift. Let’s say you create a list of 20 people to start.

You can always add to it!

Certainly, this list of 20 people is where you will focus your time right now.

Since meeting in person is not likely, utilize this time (again!) to have meaningful conversations with current and potential donors.

People are answering their phones because they are craving the human connection. 

Even though not in person, you are a human being on the other end of the phone and they will value your call. 

#3 Identify a Reason to Call

It could be, “We have never met before but  . . . (and continue by making a connection)

Maybe it’s . . . “We have never met but our mutual friend Mary has reminded me several times to call you. 

Besides our both knowing Mary, I understand one of your greatest passions is preserving our environment. 

Would you be interesting in hearing about some of our programs focused on preserving our rivers” 

Then pause and let the conversation unfold.

I made calls like this often when I started at the foundation. 

There were very few people I knew.  

On top of that, our donor prospects were all of the country, and we had a small travel budget.

I had to start somewhere. And that somewhere was getting on the phone and introducing myself and topics of interest. 

#4 Never Leave a Call Without a Follow-up Plan

Listen and listen even closer!

You are listening for nuggets of information. 

You want to identify a person’s values, interests, and passions.

They are constantly being revealed to you.

If a person, talks about an upcoming family vacation, you know they value family.

If a person, talks about an annual fishing trip, consider they value the outdoors and the environment.

If someone is a retired educator, consider they are passionate about learning and having an educated workforce.

When you have nuggets of information, you can get back with them after the call with literature, possibly a private tour, an introduction, for example.

No doubt, you are always listening for a reason to follow up.

Never leave a call without a follow up plan. You must keep money coming in.

Summary: Sustain Relationships and Keep Money Coming In

Keeping donors in the mix can be a challenge, but these four strategies will help you sustain relationships and keep money coming in. 

In summary, the worst thing you can do is be bummed about the environment and your situation.

Take action. Look for the positives. And look for the opportunities. 

They are there!


Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].


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