Friday, August 03, 2007

New column every Monday: "The Fundraising Guru"--August 6, 2007

Successful fundraisers don't just ask for money
by Dr. Stephen L. Goldstein, author of the nationwide bestseller, 30 Days to Successful Fundraising and producer and host of "Fundraising Success," a one-hour radio program of WXEL/National Public Radio--available at anytime from anywhere in the world at

Listen to this column at from anywhere in the world at any time. Click on "Fundraising Success" 080507. You can even download it and forward it to others.

News flash: Successful fundraising is not about asking for money. If that's all there was to it, anybody would be able to do it, and the odds of success would be at least one in three. It would be just a matter of saying, "Here I am. I represent a worthy cause. Please contribute to it." End of story.

In fundraising, as in business, money follow great ideas. Thought rules the world, sets everything in motion. Mother Teresa was consumed by her desire to care for the poorest of the poor. President John F. Kennedy energized the country when he declared that we would put a man on the moon. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired millions when he led the civil rights movement in the United States.

Such passionate devotion to purpose is not reserve only for the famous and powerful, however. The owner of a store that sells only organically grown food may sincerely believe that he is ehlping improve his customers' quality of life. A researcher at a medical technology company may be committed to developing non-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedures because she cares about people's well-being. A teacher may be driven to discover a way to teach autistic children to communicate.

As a fundraiser, you too must have, or you must find, a purpose that has heart and soul in it. You must be consumed by a "burning desire" to change something in the world for the better. You will know it when you see and feel it. It will become your be-all-and-end-all. You will experience an "ah ha" about it. You will not be able to imagine doing anything else.

Having a "burning desire" does not mean being emotional, unrealistic, effusive. You can't tilt at the proverbial windmill and do much good. You also need to be grounded. The most successful fundraising efforts are a mixture of the idealistic and uplifting with the practical and doable. They must have vision, promise, and scope, but they must appear to be accomplishable. Then, you will inspire, impress, and excite others to believe that they too can make a difference in the world by contribution to your purpose.

Too often, in the day-to-day search for funds, fundraisers forget or take for granted the underlying idea that inspired their purpose or project, focusing only on asking for money. Too ofte, having repeated their message again and agai, they assume potential donors already know how worthy their cause is. They forget to connect the dots, to make a riveting case.

Sometimes, an idea that started as a "burning desire" burns our over time and needs to be rekindled. Be flexible. Be willing to go back to basic. Where there is no heart, there will be no success. Be sure that you can fan the flames of your "burning desire" before you ask anyone for money or you will shortchange yourself and your worthy cause.

You should be able to express your "burning" desire in one carefully crafted sentence. And from it, others should be able immediately tograsp how compelling your purpose is. If you now work with a nonprofit or have a "burning desire" for which you want to raise money, try expressing it in a single sentence. E-mail it to me at, and I'll rate it from 1 to 10.


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