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Fundraising Is Not about the Money

In all my years of asking for funding, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is: it is NOT primarily about the money.

If It’s Not about the Money, What Is It about?

“Fundraising not about the money?” you say. “How can that be? Fundraising is all about the money. That’s what we’re asking for.” True. But the end result is not money for money’s sake. The end result, what motivates people to give, is the impact your organization is making on the world – and this includes the people that approve grant requests and finalize grant contracts.

…no one cares that my organization needs money.

For example, no one cares that my organization needs money. As a suicide prevention hotline, my donors care that someone is always there to listen. No one cares if I pay the phone bill. But they care that there is a phone line open for someone in crisis. No one cares if I pay my training coordinator’s salary. But they care that my clients are receiving the best and most up-to-date care possible.

It’s about the Mission!

Fundraising is not about the money – it is about the mission you meet with the money. It is about impact. It is about your organization’s relationship with the community it serves.

As I postulate in Power Your Organization’s Fundraising: How the Partnership Paradigm Will Change Everything, fundraising is all about relationship. It is about the way in which you describe how well your organization is meeting its end of the social bargain it has with donors (e.g., they give your organization money and your organization gives them mission fulfillment). It is about how well you describe what your organization does as part of that social contract. Fundraising is not about money – it is about you describing your organization’s relationship with its surrounding community.

…asking people for money is not about the money – it is about the relationship you have built with your donors.

People give to people. More accurately, people give to people they trust. Not only must your organization live up to its promises, so must you. For people to trust you, you must have a relationship with them. Then, asking people for money is not about the money – it is about the relationship you have built with your donors. If you focus on the money you are trying to raise, you will not be very successful. But if you focus on developing mutually fulfilling relationships, you will be successful beyond your dreams.

Fundraising Is about Engaging People in Helping to Meet Mission

Fundraising is not about donors giving money – although money is the vehicle. It is about engaging people in helping to meet mission. It is about tapping into their needs to be a part of something bigger than themselves and knowing their contributions make a difference. It is about letting people know how they can be a part and contribute to successful mission fulfillment. And then, once they have contributed, letting them know how their contributions helped fulfill the social contract they support. By giving you money, you promise that donors will be part of something wonderful in the community. Let them know how they are a part of that.

And watch your fundraising results skyrocket.

Joanne Oppelt

About the Contributor: Joanne Oppelt

In resource development since 1993, I am currently Executive Director at CONTACT We Care in NJ. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the agency, strategic planning, budget management, marketing and community relations, and revenue expansion. I am also an adjunct professor at Kean University where I teach courses in nonprofit management and fund development.
I have written four books:
Moving Up to Executive Director: Lessons Learned from My First 365 Days helps the reader:

Understand the complex nature of nonprofit executive leadership
Identify the skills and characteristics of successful executive directors
Gain insight into the unique obligations nonprofit executive directors face
Manage multiple priorities
Prepare for the transition to your role as executive leader
Anticipate challenges inherent in your first year as executive director

Power Your Organization’s Fundraising: How the Partnership Paradigm Will Change Everything helps the reader find new donors, improve donor loyalty, influence funders, and build enduring funding partnerships. I introduce a new paradigm for finding sustainable funding that will empower:

Fundraising Professionals
Development Directors
Grant Professionals
Executive Directors

In Succeed in Your Nonprofit Funding Partnerships: Analyzing Their Costs and Benefits, I tell you how to think clearly about your organization’s finances. I show you:

How to create budgets that keep you in the black
How to know if a program is carrying its weight
What kind of fundraising activities to focus on, getting the most bang for your buck
How to make sure you can pay your bills from month to month

Confessions of a Successful Grants Writer: A Complete Guide to Discovering and Obtaining Funding is a down-to-earth guide to understanding funders and submitting successful proposals. It will help you:

Better position your proposals among the many that funders receive
Find out where to find what they tell you they want to know and then what they don’t tell you about what you should know
Understand the concept of organizational branding and its importance in getting your proposal funded.
Learn the questions they ask, the answers they’re looking for and how to speak language they’ll understand
Develop success, both at the organizational and interpersonal levels

I hold a bachelors degree in education and a masters degree in health administration. I am a Certified Grants Professional, a member of the Grant Professionals Association and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
I love writing, listening to music, and quiet dinners with friends. I live in New Jersey, USA with my husband Rick.

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