“F” is for Philanthropy! (How to get your leadership volunteers and staff excited about giving)

People give to people!(image by Patrick Q)

People give to people!
(image by Patrick Q)

Perfect timing for Christmas, n’est-ce pas?

Think of these fundraising best practices as the key to getting others excited about their own philanthropy.

People follow cues from their peers more than any other source of influence.

This is more a marketing law than a fundraising one, but you know how I feel about the connection between the two! People love to talk, and now their talk goes viral instead of just over the neighbour’s fence. There’s still a role for advertising and public relations but the majority of people trust what a friend says* over anything your marketing budget can pay for, and that goes double for charitable giving. 

“Peers asking peers” is the most effective way to ask for money.

The most common survey response by those who don’t give to charity is that no-one asked them to. It’s a weird statistic but super-obvious. We don’t just wake up in the morning and start writing cheques. Someone has to ask: via email, a news story, a ringing Salvation Army kettle, or a letter. The most successful asks are personalized and come from sources we know and respect, ideally delivered face-to-face. 

When asking for a gift you will have more influence if you have already made a donation yourself.

Every fundraiser knows this one. However, I find that many of us think about this solely in a peer ask situation. We think about matching our prospects to volunteers who are current donors and sometimes forget that our own philanthropy carries some weight too. I can’t think of a fundraiser I know who isn’t also a donor to one or more causes. We’re generous people but we rarely discuss it for some reason, as if it doesn’t count because we’re “just the fundraiser”.

Here’s an uplifting game to try with your colleagues to get them thinking about the power of their own generosity. Get everyone to write down the cumulative amount of their most generous year’s giving. In my case, this means seven monthly donations, the one-off gifts for fundraising events throughout the year, and a big annual gift to Union Gospel Mission. Get them to write their total for that year on a piece of paper – no names! – and hand it forward for someone to add up. Before you announce the group’s total, get them to guess it first. I guarantee that they’ll under-estimate 80% of the time and that they’ll walk away inspired by the group’s generosity every time.

Organizations reach fundraising potential more easily when their board members donate.

Getting board volunteers involved and excited in fundraising is a common source of frustration in the social sector, but I think it’s largely because of our approach. Asking for money is supposedly only slightly less fearsome than public speaking or those hairy black spiders that inexplicably find their way into the bathtub.

The next time you’re talking with your organization’s volunteers, think about changing your wording from “fundraising” to “philanthropy”. Try playing that game I just told you about. Many board volunteers do not understand the importance of their leadership to fundraising efforts, but I see the lights go on when we total up the power of their giving.

Did the lights go on for you? Great! Now get out there and talk about giving.

–          Siobhan


* Don’t believe me? Check this great Nielsen report.


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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