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?
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.