Making a Relationship with Donors

When you’re actively engaged in philanthropic activities, chances are you’re going to have to ask a donor for help. And you should! Trying to run a foundation or making a difference with exclusive use of your time, energy, and funds is a Sisyphean task. But when asking for donations, many people lead off with the same pitch: “Hi, please consider donating to or volunteering with [name of fund/organization] because it will make a positive difference in the lives of many people.” If you ask 100 people, you may get only a handful of positive responses. But how can we work to turn that into a productive, meaningful impact? two clasped hands

It’s easier said than done, to be sure, but this is the key: you’re not making the donation about them. “Wait a second,” you may be thinking, “it’s not about them! I’m trying to run this organization and get people involved to give back to others!” This is completely true, but whether they realize it or not, on every level people are thinking about how their actions benefit them. It’s not necessarily selfish, it’s just the way people are.

Now you don’t need to go out and inflate their ego. That’s bad. Saying “think about how great you’ll look volunteering tonight” looks scummy at best. Instead, approach donors that make sense. Don’t ask indiscriminately. Imagine you are in charge of organizing a fundraiser for a charity that helps to promote STEM in underperforming schools. If you have a professional contact who came from a disadvantaged background and is working towards a similar goal as you, frame your request in a way that resounds positively with that person. After all, they can likely connect with the people you are out to help. For example, you could say “I know that you worked hard to get to where you are, and want to help youths that were in your position to advance professionally. Would you like to speak to several school-aged children who want to learn more about what you do?”

This is much more thoughtful than an email blast saying “come find me if you want to make a difference this weekend!”

Remember, we’re all people, and we all want to do good. Just be upfront about why you think someone may be a good fit for the task.

Inspiration from Special Olympics Athletes

Six-foot-three, 300lb lineman Gino Gradkowski is tough. You have to be, playing one of the most heavy-hitting roles on an NFL team.  However, he has a soft spot about which he feels strongly and draws a great deal of inspiration from in terms of his own performance in the NFL, and that is the Special Olympics & its participants.

Ever since he was in college at the University of Delaware, Gradkowski has been a huge supporter of the organization and has been active in Special Olympics events. “It’s just fun to get to get to know the athletes, to interact with them, and just to watch them compete and help,” Gradkowski said, when asked about his interest in the cause. “It’s very inspiring for me.”

He feels a deep respect for the athletes of the Special Olympics, both from a motivational perspective but also in terms of staying humble and grounded in his own success. He says it helps with perspective and how he views his own life. He goes on to say,

“Our problems are peanuts compared what they have to deal with day in and day out. And for them to have the passion that they do and the work ethic – it makes you think that there’s nothing that you need to complain about, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give 100 percent.”

After graduating from College, Gradkowski was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, and continued with his involvement in the special olympics.  Later, when he joined the Denver Broncos, he immediately got back involved with the Special Olympics of Colorado and was a volunteer at the 2015 games.  One event that he worked with specifically and really enjoyed was the powerlifting event- he was a spotter for the athletes.  One of the athletes specifically requested Gino’s help, which was a really proud moment for both Gino and the athlete.

“The energy in the gym was unbelievable and it was a lot of fun to get in there and actually be involved,” Gradkowski said.  To read more about his special olympics events, check out this article.