This Mistake Made Me an Aggressive Fundraiser

I am a vicarious learner. Learning from other’s mistakes helps me avoid making them myself. My appreciation of these lessons motivates me to create opportunities for people to learn from me in the same fashion. I’m successful when I save you frustration, time, and money.

I’m going to attempt to do this by sharing a hard lesson I learned early in my fund development career. Simply put, I did not ask for enough money. While managing a non-profit in West Michigan, I started a campaign to raise scholarship funds for youth. I asked every donor to give $250—the cost of providing a full scholarship for one child. Most of our donors responded favorably, but after a year I realized several of my donors would have sponsored more children if I’d simply asked.

The lesson in this: people will not give unless you ask.

After learning this, the following year I asked people to sponsor ten youth with a gift of $2,500. Many donors did. This helped us reach our fundraising goal quicker and direct our efforts to funding other projects. Those who were not able to give $2,500 still increased what they gave because they knew we needed the funds. People gave because we asked.

My first year would have been a lot easier if I’d asked for larger donations. But, I learned the lesson and challenged my donors more effectively the following year.

Question: Are you challenging your donors by asking for enough money?