The matching of passion and resources of a funder with the vision and needs of an organization is an artful endeavor. Unfortunately, in many cases, the harmonization that makes the partnership work is lacking. Fundraisers often jump into partnerships with both feet. When there is pressure to bring in the money, the organization is tempted to jump over the philosophical statement and even the evaluation of the proper and effective use of their people. The process is short-changed and reduced to nothing but activity, followed by the ask.
If your organization has their philosophy statement hammered out, you know what type of fundraising efforts are appropriate and achievable. You know the strengths and weaknesses of your people resources, the synergies, and the team dynamics. You have a process in place that will be reproducible and transferable. This process is not dependent upon the personality of one or two people, but is a set of objectives that can be managed by a group within your organization. Only when you have these three Ps in place are you freed up to be relational and able to create external partnerships that are meaningful and mutually beneficial.
Understanding and Appreciating Donors
Even if you manage to get in front of a donor with deep pockets, there are a few things you need to know right away. A donor will rarely, if ever, write a check for greater than 10 percent of an organization’s budget. Statistically, a major donor is writing checks to 19 organizations. You are not their sole philanthropic focus. And, you better respect and appreciate that donor’s checkbook, time, and their stewardship goals if you plan on forging a strong partnership.
Your most important goal when trying to create partnerships for your organization is a face-to-face interview with a key prospect. You will never have a better opportunity to tell your story and ask for help. The process provides preparation for that meeting—knowing who you are, who the donor is, and making sure you have a shared vision prepares you for a good fit. The donor is going to be profiling you, so you had better profile yourself before you get there. Some questions to ask before meeting with a key prospect are:
- Why do you think that this person is a suitable fit as a partner?
- What are you specifically asking for?
- How does participation and partnership with you further their philanthropic goals?
- How focused and clear are you prepared to be?
The bottom line is that it is all about partnerships that make sense and help you effectively and efficiently push your organization forward.
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