Nonprofit Strategies

Mine personal social circles for donors to your nonprofit organization

barry@sloccf.orgJune 27, 2013 

Barry VanderKelen

Nonprofits have more gift prospects than they think. The problem is the willingness to approach prospective donors.

The best new prospects are the friends and associates of new board members. People are recruited to nonprofit boards because of the expertise they have, and also because the people in their social circles are new to the organization. New board members, in other words, expand the reach of the nonprofit.

Too often, board members think they can’t ask someone they know well to support their organization. I’ve heard from many people that asking a friend or neighbor for a donation will ruin the friendship.

This manner of thinking makes the person a weaker board member.

Friends want to know what you’re involved with. They will respond positively to a solicitation if they see that the organization is a priority for you. If you’re a board member and thus responsible for the organization and aren’t passionate about it, why should someone else be?

One strategy to get around the reluctance is to send teams of two out to meet with prospective donors. One person makes the introduction and the other asks for the gift. The first person introduces the mission of the organization and why she’s involved. The second person presents the need for financial support and makes the solicitation.

If the need is clear and the passion authentic, the prospect will not be offended by being asked for a gift. It is actually an act of respect that two people committed to a cause take the time to introduce it to the prospect.

Not every prospect will give immediately. But if someone doesn’t know about your organization, he’ll never give to it.

The team approach will protect friendships and allow more people to tell the organization’s story to more prospects.

Barry VanderKelen is executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation.

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