A Lesson in Raising Money in a Bad Economy
It’s a Recession. It’s a compression. It’s a depression. Whatever it is, it’s bad and particularly so to non profits. Right? Recently, however, I experienced something that cannot be explained easily if you’re listening to the news and getting your worldview from the media.
Tuesday morning I attended the “We Build People” kickoff breakfast for the YMCA of Middle TN. I hosted a table of 8 and invited some of my Y buddies whom I see most every morning in spin class, Yoga class, swimming pool, running group or workout floor (Ok, I get around). During the breakfast, we heard first-person accounts from cancer survivors finding support group in the ABC (After Breast Cancer) program , from a woman whose entire family livelihood had been wiped out by a debilitating disease finding a welcoming place at the Y through the Open Doors program that makes the Y network free for her whole family. We also heard from a once-troubled teen who found a second chance through the YCAP program and is now a leader and role model.
At the end of the breakfast we all made our pledges and waited for the total amount to be announced. Last year, the breakfast brought an average gift of $ 511 per person. Since the sky is falling and the world is about to end, we all expected the giving to be down this year. To our surprise the per capita giving this year was $628. The breakfast raise $88,000 with 140 people in attendance. And there was no one single large gift that would have skewed the total.
So what happened? Here’s a few observations:
1. The vision grew. The organizers of the event did not ask for less money this year. They asked for more. Their vision didn’t shrink in bad times; it grew. Your ask should mirror the perceived giving potential, but it should be aligned with your opportunities to impact and the importance of your mission.
2. The fund raising team made a compelling presentation of how their funds were going to be used and the impact their cause had in our community. Don’t assume that people know what you’re doing, even those who have given in the past. Renewal is not automatic; you must show what you do still matters today.
3. They didn’t cut corners. The event was well organized with first-class catering, video and print support. Times are tough but people still need to be compelled to give by a powerful vision. Clear and professional communication is a must. The Y team got most of the event donated, but they made sure everything was done well. “Donated” should never mean cheap or second rate. If what you do matters, then it should be presented in the best way possible. So don’t cut corners.
What’s your experience with funding your ministry or vision lately?
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