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Why Relationships Are Important When Looking For Major Donors For Raising Funds

However, the challenge today needed immediate action and to the tune of several lakhs, a sum that no single High Net Worth Individual had ever given to us or been asked for hitherto as unrestricted funds.

It was the year 2010, we were yet a small non–profit establishing our roots, and the horizon was looking bright. Our fundraisers in several cities of the country over a period of two years, had been fairly successful, providing us with unrestricted funds to start the projects that the board had zeroed in on.

We had successfully established corporate partnerships, prepared course curriculum, set up internship methodologies, and started remedial education and skill training centres.

The urgent need for funds, again

But almost towards the end of the year our General Secretary said, “Sanjana, let’s gather the team. We are short on funds and paying staff salaries is going to be a challenge coming two months”.

My focus was, as is expected in a start-up of any sort, multi-dimensional. It included, working with the board in strategizing and giving shape to set programmes, hiring and managing teams, setting systems, raising funds from CSR mandates. All this while functioning closely with the events team in ensuring a smooth fundraiser towards the specified end goal.

Times were challenging and exciting, days were long and meaningful. It was the last quarter of the year, and here comes a new challenge putting a spanner in our ongoing work.

My background

I was and have been more of an instinctive fundraiser. All my fundraising is geared towards business development via the relationships I have built.

Relationships have been the foundation of my existence, the exchange of information, thoughts, ideas, and knowledge. Disagreements and agreements have proven to be transformative, leading to the realisation that all change, small or large scale, depends on social context; without it they remain but, ideas.

We are emotional, feeling humans relying strongly on intuition and perception. Cognitive thinking alone is not optimal in instances of emotional moments, thus, failing to give us the expected outcomes, at times.

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During my stint representing one of the founders of the office at this non – profit amongst others, I had focussed largely on building a rapport with high net worth individuals. That the board entrusted me with the task to manage relationships was a matter of great honour for someone with next to little experience in fundraising then.

However, as they say the dots always connect backwards. I realise today that my work in the hospitality sector had groomed me in social skills for interaction with High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI’s), while providing a platform in the non-profit space that ensured true heart to heart communication.

Buddhism has taught me that life is all about our ability to harmonize with those around us. It also taught me that it is also about how to become individuals who can bring people together, technology, tools, knowledge, learning all help in fructifying this.

The solution was to get major donors

We as an entity qualified a major donor as one donating 1Lakh INR. The definition of a major donor is not carved in stone, each organisation can qualify a major donor basis their own set criteria.

The last two years had seen me interact with some major donors, in my case HNWI’s; I had been busy building interpersonal relationships resulting in multiple gifts of increasing value.

However, the challenge today needed immediate action and to the tune of several lakhs, a sum that no individual HNWI had ever given to us or been asked for hitherto as unrestricted funds. It was a matter of sink or swim!

Of the calls made, one donor agreed for a late evening meeting. I reached armed with the ask and relevant paperwork. It was a time to practice the strategy of “faith in higher power”, combined with human action. I was heard patiently, all details graciously accepted and informed that I would be reverted to by later that night. By about 930-10 pm I got a call stating that the driver would reach me the next day before noon with a cheque, the amount wasn’t mentioned and I did not ask.

Come next morning 11:30 am the driver came with the envelope. A bag full of mixed emotions coupled with anxiety and anticipation, we opened the envelope. Lo & behold! We were sorted for three months! The envelope offered us UR funds three times the ask!

Understanding the process that worked

  • Updated prospect list based on a predefined criteria – e.g.: Real Estate ownership, Past giving- how recent, frequent was the donation and to what amount, business affiliates, interests.
  • Authenticity and Genuineness: Authentic, clear and precise in our communication and genuine in our intention and execution.
  • Sincerity in cultivating relationships. Heart and head in the right proportion.
  • Communicating the narrative of mission and fundraising efforts.
  • Tailoring and personalising the engagement for each Major Donor.
  • Articulating the organisational challenges simply and allowing them to help.
  • Listening – always listening as they talk and we get deep insights.
  • Explaining the impact their contribution would make.
  • Being data driven while forming a passionate, emotional connect.
  • Following up.
  • Informing them with the results of their impact.
  • Recruiting them beyond their money, encouraging and requesting their advocacy for the cause.
  • Connecting them to the beneficiaries.
  • Making the relationship interactive and acknowledgement of the giving permanent.

Adopting the famous words:  “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”.Helen Keller

Image source: Freepik, provided by author

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About the Author

Sanjana Grover

Sanjana is an independent consultant for the social sector and CSR space. Her specialization and passion lie in helping non-profits fundraise for their development activities; supporting MSMEs, and large corporates in identifying CSR objectives read more...

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