I know from experience that difficult economic times can be devastating to non-profit budgets. Not only do regular donors cut back, clients often have trouble paying even modest fees. At board meetings around the country well-meaning committee members are using the dreaded “G word”—even if grants have never before been part of their fundraising mix. See where this is going? Whether the grant-maker of your dreams is a foundation or a government entity, it’s also looking at increased demand.
As a rule, non-profit organizations combine wonderful, inspiring missions with small pocketbooks. The gap between dream and budget can be a great source of stress and worry for all concerned. That very gap has driven many of us to sit in front of a supermarket or department store selling baked goods and raffle tickets.
Here’s why this isn’t a good idea.
Think for a moment about how you feel after going a couple of rounds with a shopping cart whose wheels have been imitating the points on a compass. After spending more than you’d hoped, stuffing almost everything back into your purse, draping a bunch of bags over your arm and opening the door with your hip you hear this:
“Ma’am, would you like to buy some…..”
Unless the ‘asker’ fills in that blank with something like “a 5-pound box of imported chocolates for $1,” my guess is, if no one you know is watching, you start wondering if you can get to the car without making eye contact.
Far fetched? No. I’m a pretty reliable donor and I confess to having that exact reaction from time-to-time.
No matter how much you like a particular cause, the “who,” “how,” “when,” and “where” of the request matters. People will give money to your cause because they know who you are (the organization) and they care about what you do. Skip the bake sale and find a way to connect with the people who share your vision.
And when they make a donation, get someone to bake them “thank you” cookies!
Editorial Note: We love Andrea. We think she's brilliant. We tried to get her to make an exception for Girl Scout cookie sales – adorable little girls selling treats we wait all year to buy. She wouldn't budge -- so we promise to think this over when we've finished selling our kiddos' Girl Scout cookies in a variety of what Andrea would call ‘annoying and inappropriate’ places.
Read all of Andrea's Tips for Non-Profit Boards and Directors.
Andrea Patten is an author, trainer and former NFP director. What Kids Need to Succeed: Four Foundations of Adult Achievement provides parents with useful insights from high-achieving adults. (Hint: one of the Four Foundations is ‘giving.’) An advocate for children and families she currently volunteers as an Area Coordinator for the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance. Connect with Andrea via her success parenting blog, Twitter or Facebook! She’d love to hear from you.