It must be the years of graduate school that have resulted in my current love for small, easy-to-read, even "sassy" books.
I just found another one, Ask Without Fear: A Simple guide to Connecting Donors with What Matters to Them Most, by Marc A. Pitman (2008, Executive Books). Pitman is a fundraising consultant and maestro of FundraisingCoach.com.
I like that Pitman is applying the coaching paradigm to fundraising. I think he means it in the sports sense, as a baseball coach, for instance. But I like to think of him as a therapy coach as well. God knows, we can all use some "counseling" when asking for a gift, probably one of the things most feared by people, right up there with public speaking and snake handling.
I have no doubt that Pitman can coach the most timid and fearful fundraising staff member or nonprofit board member through their first contacts and on to ultimate success. He will do this through both motivation and instruction in some basic skills.
Pitman's book is quick and precise. He has developed what he calls his R.E.A.L. process to guide us through the fundraising cycle. R.E.A.L. represents research, engage, ask, love and back to research. Follow the process, rinse and repeat.
Pitman's book is full of small but surprisingly meaningful suggestions such as using a blue pen for your thank you note so it looks more handwritten; thanking people at least seven times before asking them to give again; and looking for the unusual in your research about a prospect, such as a book review he or she wrote or that they belong to a particular club.
The meat of the book lies in Pitman's discussion of the seven fundraising myths. These are not only useful but entertaining as he uses stories, humorous anecdotes, and great tips to illustrate his points.
Here is a truncated version of Pitman's fundraising myths (I don't want to give too much away after all):
- The Field of Dreams Fiasco. This is a version of the Field of Dreams refrain, "If you build it, they will come." The nonprofit version is "If you send it, they will give." Chickens that we are, we often fall back on a written solicitation rather than a real, face-to-face ask. Don't do that.
- The Mickey D's Syndrome. This is when nonprofits indulge in "poverty thinking." Don't focus so much on stretching your resources that you forget about quality. So when you cultivate donors, do it right. Take them to a restaurant with real silverware and a tablecloth for heaven's sake.
- The Cheez-It Treatment. You know when you stand in the grocery store and can't make up your mind what flavor to buy of that snack? Well, don't overwhelm your donors with too many choices. Pitman says to remember P.Y.I.T.S. or put yourself in their shoes.
- Mrs. McTat's House of Cats. I am allergic to cats but my donor may really love them. Be careful what you say. Watch those phrases that just spring to your lips, but that may be really, really inappropriate.
- The Spell-Check-Will-Catch-It. Oh, this one we all know well. Learn to proof-read your long-labored-over fundraising letters and acknowledgments, and have someone else look too.
- The You're Good-Enough-To-Go-It-Alone Blunder. Pairing up to make an ask is more effective than going it alone. If you are staff, go with your volunteer.
- The Highway Fallacy. Yep, this is about "My way or the highway!" Pitman says that in fundraising, the asker sometimes ignores all the clues the donor is giving off and just blunders ahead to a quick death. Don't.
These points are simple but so profound. I love that Pitman simplifies fundraising so that it doesn't seem so scary. After reading this fine little book, we might all say, "Hey, I can do that!"
Pitman has released a DVD version of his Ask Without Fear. See my review, The Fundraising Coach Scores With Ask Without Fear DVD.