Fundraising is hardly anyone’s idea of a romantic date on Valentine’s Day. But did you ever think that fundraising is the ideal way to meet people who are interested in the same nonprofit causes that you are? Also for your own career visibility, fundraising calls give you the magic keys to meet influential people inside corporations, almost as if Cupid were pulling the bow.
The lifeblood of every nonprofit is fundraising — for programs and services, marketing outreach, and pay for overhead, including hard-working staff.
No one starts out life as a natural-born fundraiser. Even the best have to learn step-by-step to become better and better. But they can fall in love with fundraising along the way. When you realize this is a means to become more visible, build friendships, and provide an essential service, then asking for money is no longer something to fear, but relish.
As a board member of Southern California Leadership Network and previously several other nonprofit organizations over the years, I have learned through making calls, seeing what works, honing my “pitch.” And I don’t always get to “yes.” My first volunteer board was the March of Dimes of SoCal many years ago. At the time, I owned a growing public relations agency and I was always looking for ways to meet new potential client companies who could hire my firm. Rather than volunteering for the marketing committee, which I already knew how to do, I realized that the volunteers who were getting the most love and moving quickly up the ladder, were those bringing in the corporate sponsorships. They were getting love from the outside donors as well as the inside staff. So I started making fundraising calls to corporations. I was timid at first.
Then I learned the ropes from other more experienced volunteers. When you talk to prospects about the cause, or the mission, it’s something far bigger than you are; You are enticing the person or company to become part of this nonprofit. Of course, they want return on their investment, so I learned to emphasize the benefits they will get out of the relationship.
Over the decades in business, I have volunteered to raise funds for SCLN, as well as the National Association of Women Business Owners, the American Lung Association in California, WomenCorporateDirectors, and 2020 WomenOnBoards. This is how I meet corporations, become well-known and make friends. And I build my own business networks of current and prospective client companies along the way.
When people volunteer for a nonprofit together, they build trust and achieve a common cause. Friendships are forged through trust. Many nonprofit contributors have become long-time friends and clients for my firm, Berkhemer Clayton Retained Executive Search. Focusing on fund-raising has been a key networking strategy with double benefit: building our core business while raising much-needed funds for nonprofits. Try it. You may fall in love, too!
President/Co-founder | Berkhemer Clayton Retained Executive Search
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Author of “The Board Game–How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors”
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Co-chair, Los Angeles 2020 Women on Boards Nov. 15, 2017