Dare to Utter the “S” Word
The following is a guest post from Michael Rubin, CFRE. He is the Principal of Michael D. Rubin & Associates, a consulting firm that works with non-profits on fundraising, planning, and board development.
Whether our day schools have been around for some years or are relative “newbies,” one thing is certain: we all must raise money to remain vibrant and relevant.
Money for scholarships, new programs, modern facilities. Faculty retention, professional development, endowment.
These generous acts are known as philanthropy (“love of mankind” in Greek) or tzedakah (“a righteous, fair or just act”). It is a noble thing to both give and raise money. Donors, lay leaders, and development professionals should feel privileged to be part of the process.
Yet, in seeking ways to improve our non-profit fundraising success, it’s worth looking at skill sets in the for-profit world.
Fundraising, after all, is about understanding the needs of a “customer,” what his/her needs and motivations are, and how your “product” benefits the customer and helps fulfill those needs.
Yep, it’s really SALES. The dreaded “S” word. There, I’ve said it.
We don’t utter the word, because it seems so… crass, so for-profit, so lacking in neshamah (soul). But there is merit to borrowing best practices from successful salespeople and applying them to our fundraising. Truly, our boards, heads and development professionals are making “sales” to prospective donors—conveying the benefits of day schools, persuading donors to invest in Jewish education and in the next generation of leaders. Can you find a better return on investment than that?!
Let’s look at four priority areas for salespeople which adapt nicely to day school fundraising:
They start with a dollar goal for closed sales.
In fundraising, it’s called a gift pyramid: total philanthropy needed, broken down to X gifts at $25,000, Y gifts at $10,000, Z gifts at $5,000, etc. Focus on the top and middle levels of the pyramid.
They create a detailed Sales Plan. Why would you undertake anything this complex and important without a plan? Highlights include:
- What’s the case for support?
- How will a making a gift benefit the donor? The community?
- Who is most likely to be passionate about Jewish education and has resources to invest?
- Why philanthropy and not tuition? What’s the urgency?
They break down their Sales Plan to a specific number of monthly sales visits.
Face-to-face meetings are proven to be the most successful predictor of closed sales–developing relationships, discovering customer likes/dislikes, sharing progress and thanking for previous business. Personal visits from the right people convey a sense of importance about day schools, help understand donor needs and motivations, share school progress and recognize donors for past gifts.
They budget time to hit their # of sales visits before scheduling anything else.
Major donor visits—to qualify, cultivate, solicit and steward–must get scheduled first. Figure on seeing four or five donors in a day. If you can persuade donors to tour the school, it’s more compelling. But take your visits where it is most convenient for the donor. Remember: it’s all about the donor, not about you.
So, don’t be afraid to say the “S” word. Borrow from the best practices of successful salespeople to bring goal-setting, discipline, face-to-face major donor visits and priority-setting to your school. You will reap the benefits in reaching and exceeding your philanthropy goals—while developing more engaged, informed, and loyal donors.