Tips for the new fundraiser … or job seeker

By June 9, 2014Donor Cultivation

jobs_help_wantedThis weekend I took our son, Jack, to look for a summer job. He just turned 15, so his prospects are limited.

He’s fairly motivated. He’d like a laptop, and probably a host of other electronic gear for which his parents aren’t going to pony up.

Of course, he’s new at this job search thing. I think he’ll be great at anything, but the search itself will be a challenge.

There are so many parallels between working with a first time job seeker and working with the first time fundraising volunteer. Here are some tips I’d give to either one:

  1. Have your materials ready – In Jack’s case this meant a resume. I also made sure he had a pen handy in case an opportunity arose to fill out application on the spot. In a fundraising call, think about what’s appropriate given the circumstances. Is it a brochure, architectural drawings, a collection of newspaper clippings, a top-ten wish list? Is your prospect ready for a formal proposal?
  2. Rehearse – Jack and I had a frank talk about the relative strength of his resume, and any application he might fill out. The fact that he was a crossing guard in sixth grade won’t make him super competitive on the job market. Maybe your project would be very appealing to the donor on paper. Maybe not. Chances are, your impassioned, thoughtful in-person pitch, is going to be much more powerful. Practice your speech. Then think about how your prospect might respond, any objection she might have, and what you’ll say. Practice it out loud to yourself in the car on the way to a meeting. Practice in front of a friend and ask what he thinks. Give yourself time to get used to hearing the words come out of your mouth, and they’ll ultimately flow better.
  3. Segue to the next meeting – With the job search, the prospective employer usually knows what to do after an initial connection. But with prospective donors, especially those considering large contributions, you want to leave time to let a bold idea take hold, but not so much time that other priorities arise, to allow for follow up without feeling like you’re pestering. Think about closing a meeting with a commitment to meet again, within a specific time frame, with additional information, for a tour, or to include your prospect’s significant other.
  4. Be on time, or a little early – Alright, this is a given. File it under ‘duh,’ and keep going.
  5. Do your research – At first Jack wanted to secure a job at Game Stop. But they only hire ages 17 and up. Something at the YMCA would be fun, but they only take applications for specific positions. All of this information was readily available online. Other sources of information included friends (where are other kids working?), newspaper articles (what new local restaurants are opening?). Take time to research your prospective donor. Where have they given? With whom do they socialize? Do they like recognition or prefer to stay anonymous? Craft your approach accordingly.

After Jack and I stopped at three locations to drop off resumes, ask if there was any work, and possibly pick up an application, we went for ice cream and debriefed. This, he said, was the most difficult task he’d ever undertaken. Bar none.

I understand. Approaching someone with your hand out makes you feel vulnerable. It often doesn’t matter if you’re asking for a job, or someone’s time, or a very large contribution.

This calls to mind a couple bonus tips for working with the fundraising volunteer:

  1. Be positive. Your fundraiser might get twenty turn downs for every ‘yes,’ but it’s that one ‘yes’ they’re going for. They have to start somewhere. Sometimes they’ll get lucky the first time. The only thing we know for sure is they’ll never hear ‘yes’ if they don’t get started.
  2. Keep at it. Consistency and resolve pays off. Always. Sometimes it takes longer than others for no particular reason.
  3. Set benchmarks. Jack and I discussed stopping at three potential employers at a time, and then stopping to recharge. It’s hard to put yourself out there. Encourage your volunteer to make a plan to recharge every so often. It’ll help you keep him going when he experiences rejection.
  4. Target your audience. Narrow your field if you can. Doing so helps keep the message tight.
  5. Celebrate your successes. And forward movement is a success. Jack didn’t land a job today, but we celebrated after a good try. I congratulated him on having the courage to walk into those businesses, each of them by himself, say his piece and do his best to make a good impression.

We’ll do the job search all again next weekend, because that’s how this is done. The same can be said for fundraising. Perseverance, consistency, focus, and determination will all be rewarded eventually, for Jack as well as for the folks we coach to put themselves out there every day.

photo by: photologue_np

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