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Big Gifts for Small Groups: A Board Member's 1-Hour Guide to Securing Gifts for $500 to $5,000
Andy Robinson
Medfield, Massachusetts: Emerson & Church, 2004
112 pp., $24.95, paperback (bulk discounts available)
ISBN 1-889102-21-0

The board of directors of a nonprofit organization is legally and financially responsible for that group. For some organizations, board members play a significant role in fundraising. In others they do not. But since most nonprofits need to raise donations from individuals, Big Gifts for Small Groups should have a large audience of board members, volunteers, staff, and even professional fundraisers. The very useful book is a quick read (an hour or less as it bills itself) in 33 two to four-page "chapters" that provide the techniques necessary to raise thousands of dollars from "major donors."

Each chapter has a simple idea, starting with "The Money Taboo"and ending with "Thank You for Asking Me." The taboos include lots of reasons that many board members (and other people) are hesitant — to say the least — about fundraising. But in addition to dealing with the reasons that people do not raise as much money as they could for their organization, the author discusses how to change your attitude about fundraising — it's not about the "asker," but the "decider." And it's about the importance of your nonprofit organization and what it will do with the money.

Based on his own 25 years of experience, Andy Robinson pulls together his own personal stories and ideas and those of others to provide down-to-earth guidance that can be immediately put to use. For example, he stresses basic concepts — that you have to ask for money and you will frequently be turned down. But he also says: "you and your fellow board members and volunteers already know all the people you need to know to raise all the money you need to raise."

A great story in the book deals with the myth that we say we don't know people who can give. We may think that people dress too poorly or drive an old car or live in a small house cannot give. The example given is of a old farmer in North Dakota, whose grandson said: "If my grandfather knew that people were sitting around town saying, 'We can't ask Pete for money. He's too poor. Look at his tractor,' it would make him crazy. He would say, 'have you studied my checkbook? Have you looked at my bank account? How dare you make that decision for me.'"

After discussing the basics of asking and putting together the plan for what money you need for what works, about half of the book is the nuts and bolts a three-step process of getting the donation — writing a letter, making a phone call, and having a meeting to ask for the gift. He includes a sample letter which provides basic information and asks for a meeting.

Robinson points out that the followup phone call to schedule the meeting is, for some people, the most difficult part — we don't want to be a "telemarketer." Robinson points out that you're not doing that — "You'll be calling friends, family members, colleagues, co-workers, and neighbors. Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to contract your organization's donors, members, and volunteers — people who have already expressed their commitment by contributing time, money, or both."

He discusses how to deal with objections and where to meet — the decider's house (preferably), or workplace, or at the organization, or at a neutral location. And he describes in detail how to carry out the actual meeting. He emphasizes that "you cannot talk someone into giving you money," but you can "listen someone into giving by asking good questions, being fully present in the conversation, and listening carefully to what he or she has to say."

He also details how to followup on the meeting, including allowing people to spread their gift over time, and the importance of saying thank you. The book ends with the story of Robinson asking friends, including an elderly woman to come to a party, the proceeds of which would go to two organizations. The woman lived far away and couldn't attend, but she sent a check, with a note that ended: "Thank you for asking me." Robinson learned that "It is a privilege to ask. It is also a privilege to be asked. Remember this and you'll be a great fundraiser."

— Don Hancock

Order from:
Emerson & Church, Publishers
P.O. Box 338
Medfield, MA 02052
(508) 359-0019

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