Note: This guest post is from our colleague Crystal Middlestadt at the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training. GIFT publishes the Grassroots Fundraising Journal (one of our favorite publications) and organizes Money for Our Movements, North America’s largest gathering of social justice fundraisers.
Picture this: You’re organizing your annual fundraising event, which includes a public request for donations delivered by two of your best board members.
Between them, they have years of fundraising experience. You’re excited to use this opportunity to develop their leadership skills.
Unfortunately, in the midst of juggling multiple event details, you haven’t had time to fully prepare them – and it shows.
Starting strong, with a weak close
One board member begins with a personal story about your organization’s impact. You sense people are really feeling something. Yes!
As the second board member steps up to enthusiastically describe your programs, the excitement in the room is palpable. Your guests are ready to give. Yes!
Then your board members make a soft, generic ask to “please support our mission.” That’s it. The end.
What?? What about the script you prepared?
What happened to your $5,000 fundraising goal, with an ask for gifts of $50 and up?
What about the details: the pledge form, the monthly giving option, the remittance envelopes, the volunteers available to collect the contributions?
Training improves your odds of success
Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t expect board members to just jump in, take the stage, and make the magic happen.
If you want them to deliver a successful fundraising pitch at your next event, you must provide training and tools. Here’s how.
Step 1: Talk about the fear of asking
To begin your training, discuss the personal risks and barriers many of us must overcome to feel empowered enough to ask for money. Facilitate a 30 minute exercise to dive into questions such as these.
- What is your earliest memory of money?
- What were you taught about money growing up?
- How do you feel when you ask for money to support a cause you believe in?
- How do you feel when you donate money?
Write each question on a flip chart sheet. Invite small groups to circulate, spending about five minutes at each page while writing their answers. Debrief by bringing the full group together to review and discuss their responses.
Step 2: Practice, practice, practice!
An effective pitch is a guided experience. Your job is to elicit an emotional response and connection to the issue, while offering your organization’s solutions and strategies.
While you don’t want to sound like you’re reading a script, you do need to carefully craft your story and your request.
Take the time to work with your board members as they practice and refine what they’re going to say. Here’s a great exercise, Pitching in Public, you can use to help them to distill their message, create energy, and activate an audience.
Step 3: Show them how to give specific instructions
Do your guests know how much money you’re raising and how the funds will be used?
Did you ask for specific gift amounts?
Do guests understand they can give with a credit card, check, cash, or online? Do they know that monthly gifts are encouraged? Do they have remittance envelopes handy?
In the whirlwind of organizing a house party or benefit event, these details can be overlooked – yet they are critical components of an effective ask.
As you train your board, teach them to give specific instructions, such as:
- Instruct your guests to pick up their pens and fill in their donation information.
- Ask them to take out their checkbooks.
- Share your website address for people wishing to make a gift from their smartphone.
- Instruct guests to hand their donations to volunteers walking through the room with baskets.
The more specific your instructions, the more money you will raise. Everyone you train needs to embrace this wisdom and ask accordingly.
For more helpful tips, visit our website. We offer articles like “Developing a Rap That Raises Money,” from our Grassroots Fundraising Journal archives.