A few years before my time as a fundraiser at Columbia University’s Engineering School, there had been a director of development named Louise (perhaps not her real name).
Every alumnus I met thought she was fabulous. They even spoke of her ballroom dancing expertise and how she wowed them every year at the annual gala held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC.
But I started digging deeper. I looked at the School’s donor history. There were very, very few substantial gifts.
What was going on?
Love. Dancing. But no giving.
I met with one alum who gave $50,000 for a scholarship fund. Surely, it was because Louise had asked him. Nope, he told me, it was because he felt it was time to give back. I discovered that this was a repeated pattern.
Everyone loved Louise because she was very social, thoughtful, joyful, a great dancer, and…
BECAUSE SHE NEVER ASKED FOR MONEY!
Feel free to get to know your donors well, get close to them, even dance if appropriate, but don’t forget that your main job is to ask for substantial support.
Otherwise you will be dancing in the dark.
Have you had similar experiences?
PS. I’m mentioned in the 2022 Nonprofit Trend Guide. Check it out here.