Fundraising: It’s a contact sport! Helping your natural partners be successful.

14 06 2012

“I don’t want to shake your germy hand, I just came here for your money” says Dr. Sheldon Cooper of television’s Big Bang Theory – the Benefactor Factor Episode.  Now the show is some seriously good humor and that particular episode is a must see for development professionals who enjoy a little crass humor and this particular episode doesn’t necessarily paint a great picture of fundraising. In all seriousness Sheldon, misses what some faculty members, physicians, program managers, and non-profit leaders (sometimes called natural partners) have a hard time grasping – the need for partnership with donors.
Meetings with donors should be an opportunity to “bear witness” for their project, institution, or program.  Too often we try to guard the donor or the faculty member, when what we should be doing is down playing the fundraising discussion and helping them share with prospective donors what makes their work matter.  Unlike the crew on the TV show, we don’t trade our morals to donors, but we do need them to share their passion for their work.
Tips for preparing your natural partners to engage donors:
1) Put them in an environment they are comfortable in (not everyone does the cocktail party well). Meetings in labs, classrooms, exhibit halls, etc. can make the experience seem natural.
2) Share the strategy and focus on their role (e.g. make it clear their role at this moment is not to ask – unless it actually is!). Define success for this meeting.
3) Role play – What possible questions might the prospect ask? Do they know the two or three key points that should be articulated to the prospect?
4) Know the limits of your partner – how long is the right time to have the engaged?
Most of our partners don’t react like Sheldon for the purpose of thwarting fundraising efforts. As one highly trained surgeon said to me “I don’t know how you can do this fundraising job it is stressful!”  In many ways this is a tremendous compliment to our profession. Our job is to help them play their role in the fundraising process whether it is through grateful patient program, donor dinners, tours etc. Their involvement is critical to your success.
And yes…every once in a while you have to shake a germy hand or two – it’s good for you.

Good Luck!

Mark J. Marshall

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