My friend, Jonah Halper, has a great new book out called, Date Your Donors: How to Attract and Engage a New Generation of Philanthropists. It is a great read that is really helpful in understanding fundraising as relationship building. I asked Jonah a few questions about the book and here my questions and his answers:
What compelled you to write this book?
I wrote this book because as I began honing my fundraising training presentations, a lot of my talks had dating analogies. I felt it was easy for my audience to relate to a metaphor that was more universally experienced. Especially because you can’t possibly know the background and expertise of 300 people in an audience. Dating was something most, if not all, people would have first hand experience. Most importantly, I wanted the book to make fundraising accessible to everyone. You don’t need a Masters degree to get people excited and support your cause. This book also reminds the seasoned professional to build in some new best practices to recognize the need for fostering real relationships with their existing and potential donors.
Hmmm, “dating” your donors sounds a little bit squishy, can you help us understand the essence of it?
It does! Because we humans are squishy! Our attraction to products and people are largely based on our emotions. We like to believe that we are intellectually guided, but that intellect is largely used to take a closer look at things that have already captured our interest. We largely make decisions based on our emotional investment in things, and we use data to reinforce positions we are already likely forming.
Why are so many people afraid of fundraising?
Because most people perceive fundraising as “dialing for dollars”, a sterile solicitation between two people. Just like sex, if there is no substance in the relationship, the act is reduced to only one’s selfish gains. If there is no partnership in fundraising, then your solicitation is commensurate with an ATM withdrawal. Fundraising – and sex – is much more powerful if it’s built on a real connection between two people. To carry this analogy even further, it is much easier to initiate intimacy with someone if there is an existing relationship. Questions like, “when is the right time to ask for money?” is akin to “how do I get this woman to come home with me?” These questions become less relevant when there is a real relationship behind them.
What are the 3 things you wish organizations would stop doing in regards to fundraising?
ONE NIGHT STANDS
My biggest pet peeve is the one-night stand of fundraising. When you land the gift, say thank you, and then the next time they hear from you is one year later when it’s time to ask for more money. If this is a partnership, then the relationship STARTS when the gift is made. We need to have a robust plan for investor relations much like any brokerage that keeps their clients in the loop on their investments.
AWKWARD OR UGLY BRANDING
Another peeve of mine is when organizations don’t prioritize the brand and marketing of their cause. Online and offline, if your mission and vision isn’t compelling and beautiful, why would anyone want to advocate on your behalf? Our social lives are so much more tethered online, which means we care very much how we are perceived by friends and colleagues and therefore we will only champion and promote causes that fit the narrative we are making for ourselves. I don’t want to hang out with the socially awkward kids at the party. If your cause isn’t attractive, you aren’t creating the opportunity for people to see the wonderful “personality” behind it.
Seth Godin’s book, Permission Marketing, is marketing canon for anyone selling something. I learned that if you want to build a relationship with a customer, you have to “earn the permission bit by bit” to get their attention, and ultimately make the sale. Just because you are excited about your litany of programs, services and events, doesn’t mean I share that interest. It is the equivalent of walking up to a random man or woman on the street and ask them out on a date without any context. You may get lucky, but it definitely isn’t a reliable way to convert these people into dates…or donors. We need to think about our potential or existing donors and see what kind of interactions we are already having with them, and see how we can increase the dialogue level within that frame of reference. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like, are all designed to help you create a two-way channel of dialogue, much like you do face-to-face. If you use it as simply another way to broadcast your “newsworthy” items, your intended audience will feel indifferent at best, or at worst, harassed!
I highly recommend this book for anyone aiming to be successful at fundraising. Buy it, read it, share it!