For Pete’s Sake, ASK!

I’m still not sure who Pete is. But he makes a very good point about asking donors for financial support during the pandemic.  As fundraising professionals, we may need to rethink how quietly we are collectively sitting.

I have run into many nonprofits who are frustrated by a decline in revenue numbers.  “Our sponsorship donations are down,” they tell me.  So, we sit down to take a look.

I start with a few of their historical top donors.  I might say, “Okay, ABC corporation gave you $20,000 in 2019.  Why do you think they didn’t renew in 2020? The answer, “Well, we didn’t ask them in 2020.”

I scream “WHY NOT?!”  Okay, only on the inside.  To the client I say, “I see, so why didn’t you ask them in 2020?” 

I usually get a reason that sounds something like, “Well, they normally sponsor our Garden Tour and we didn’t hold it last year due to Covid.”  Or, “Our big fundraising event was virtual this year, so we set the top sponsorship at $10K instead of $20K.   These organizations seem to believe that since the fundraising event was lessor, or nonexistent, then the organization didn’t have the right to ask for any or as much money from their long-term supporters.

THIS IS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG.  I don’t want to take anything away from your fundraising event, but seriously, in most cases, your donor is REALLY not giving to the event for the sponsorship perks. Or in the very least, is willing to forgo these benefits for a year.  So what if fewer people are attending?  So what that the event is virtual and not in person?  Your donor still wants to support you.  They believe in your mission and in you to use their funds wisely.  The extra mulligans at your golf tournament are just a bonus.

If the decision to give to your organization is based solely on sponsorship benefits, then you have missed the fundraising boat.  For that $20K in sponsorship, your business donor could have purchased a lot of marketing media.  The fact that they are getting a LOGO listing instead of a plain font listing on the table tent is likely NOT going to pan out in a cost-benefit analysis of your donor’s advertising dollars. 

Instead, realize this.

  1. Well-cultivated donors WANT to support your mission, especially in a time of need.
  2. Your sponsorship perks probably aren’t THAT good and are not the primary reason donors give.
  3. NOT asking leaves the door open to other causes, especially down the road.

Sure, there are some exceptions for fundraisers that are in the highest stages of their life cycles.  These nonprofits may even have the luxury of turning down $5000 sponsorships if the attendees didn’t bid well in last year’s live auction.  But for most of us offering 5Ks and baked chicken lunches with silent auctions, this is not the case.  How many large donors sponsor but then fail to fill their tables or their tee times?  They may be giving to support your cause but may not be so concerned about your event. 

The long-term effects of not asking during Covid could be devastating.  Your donor may have given you $20K per year forever, but if you don’t ask this year, and Friends of Flowers DOES, then you could be replaced!  What’s going to happen next year?  And the next?  Better to keep making your case and continuing to visualize your mission to your donor. 

Engage, explain, clarify…even be slightly remorseful of the lessor event.  But, for the sake of my new friend Pete, ASK!

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