I was coaching a nonprofit leader the other day about a funding proposal she was putting together for a potential corporate donor. She had been working with this particular donor for several months, so she knew what level of investment to request. But she struggled to send the proposal because she had a fundamental block. She subconsciously felt unworthy of the level of investment she was proposing.
I said to her, “You know that this corporate donor wants to invest in you because they see that you have a solution to a social problem they think is important. And they are incapable of solving that social problem on their own. They need you. You are offering a proven solution, and they are offering the resources necessary to execute on that solution. So the two of you are equal partners in this work.”
She was shocked. She had never thought of her donors as equal partners. This was because she had completely bought into the ubiquitous (but faulty) belief in the nonprofit sector that funders are more valuable than the nonprofit leaders and organizations in which they invest.
This nonprofit leader that I was coaching suffered, as so many nonprofit leaders do, from the debilitating misconception that her organization and her social change work is not as valuable as the funder and the money that funder has to invest.
But what if, instead, nonprofit leaders approached fundraising from the powerful position of equality?
What if you viewed your potential funders as equal partners — truly equal, valuable collaborators in your social change work? What if you fundamentally believed that your funders are as valuable as you are, and that you are as valuable as they are?
Armed with this fundamental, powerful belief you could approach your potential funders and the act of fundraising as an equal exchange of value for money. You could approach any effort to fundraise — a grant proposal, a lunch with a potential individual donor, a meeting with a government funder — with an equal appreciation for both your work and for the potential collaborator sitting before you.
This shift is, in essence, planting yourself firmly in a belief that the cause you are moving forward, the clients you are serving, the vision you have for a better, more inclusive, kinder world are as worthy as the money sitting in your donor’s bank account.
This is a mindset shift for sure, but an incredibly powerful one.
So the next time you are heading to meet with a potential funder (a foundation program officer, a wealthy philanthropists, a government decisionmaker), become very clear about the tremendous value of your nonprofit’s work. Then, become equally clear about the value of your potential funder’s partnership. In envisioning you both as equally valuable partners, I have no doubt that you will raise the money you need to achieve the social change you seek.
Give it a try. And let me know what happens.
And if you would like my help figuring out how to approach your potential donors as equals, let me know.
Photo Credit: Cytonn Photography