I read a lot of fundraising blogs and one of my favorites is Passionate Giving. So when Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels published a book chock full of their major gifts wisdom, I looked forward to reading it. It’s Not Just About the Money did not disappoint.
Richard and Jeff share a lot of useful tips for organizations that want to improve their major gifts program. But there are two significant messages in the book, both of which relate back to the book’s title.
#1 The heart of fundraising is love, passion, and gratitude. As Richard and Jeff point out, it is easy to lose sight of this in the face of quarterly goals and pressure from senior leadership. But the more we stay connect to these three things, the more authentic we will be in our relationship building.
#2 A successful major gifts program is about more than just money. Success is (and should) be determined by many more factors than just the amount of money major gifts brings in. For instance, an organization’s culture, leadership, and systems can greatly influence the outcomes. It is important to look holistically at the organization.
My copy of It’s Not Just About the Money is filled with margin notes, highlights and stars from all of the insights that Richard and Jeff share that I want to remember. Here are three of my favorite takeaways from It’s Not Just About the Money.
Tip #1 Passion is a must
Richard and Jeff believe that lack of passion at an organization is deadly (pg 19), and I couldn’t agree more. Being in an environment where no one is ignited by the work can suck the life right out of you. It is important to cultivate and stay connected to that passion. In the book, Richard and Jeff suggest that sharing stories among staff members is one way to do this. They share, “Send an email each week that shares a ‘success story’ about a person who’s been helped by your organization or a situation that improved because of your efforts. This will cement in employees’ minds the significance and effectiveness of what you’re doing.” (pg 21).
Tip #2 Stories support a culture of philanthropy
Creating a culture of philanthropy is an ideal situation for most fundraisers. It is a situation where everyone at the organization embraces the idea of fundraising, board members are the organization’s biggest encouragers, donor trust the organization deeply, and it is joyful to spend time at the organization. Sounds pretty dreamy, right? Richard and Jeff suggest that one of they keys to making this happen is that everyone in the organization knows ‘the story’ (pg 30). ‘The Story’ meaning the explanation of why you exist. It’s this story that brings your organization’s community together to support a commonly valued mission. But what’s important about this story everyone believes and tells the same one. It’s an exercise of getting everyone on the same page. “Start every staff and board meeting with a segment that retells or emphasizes some portion of your story as an organization. This reiterates over and over again your mission, vision, and values. It reminds the people involved of why your organization exists.” (pg 35).
Tip #3 Take your donors to the need
Richard and Jeff say that one of the common roadblocks to deepening donor engagement is that fundraisers have not taken their donors to “the scene.” Meaning they have not really painted a picture using words, pictures, or videos to bring the donor to the need. It’s part helping the donor cross their comfort zone to directly confront the problem they want to help. What I appreciated most about this chapter is that Richard and Jeff point out that it can be emotionally difficult to be close to the need, even for fundraisers. And that may in turn prevent them from bringing their donors close to the need. Can you relate to this? I certainly can, and it wasn’t until I really started to question my relationship to a cause I was working for that I understood that my discomfort was affecting my ability to build relationships with donors.
These three takeaways are just the tip of the iceberg in It’s Not Just About the Money. If you are a major gifts officer or are considering a career in major gifts, I highly recommend reading this book.