Fundraising Myths and Folklore

“I’ve been called a shark, a vulture, a barracuda…all by faculty who are supposed to be my partners!” – Development colleague

“I’m sure my fundraiser has a rolodex of prospects she can reach out to for donations if she really wanted to.” – Faculty partner

Let’s face it – if you’ve been in the fundraising field, you’ve heard misunderstandings like these and more. To our institutional partners, their understanding of securing philanthropic gifts can be more unpleasant myths and folklore than a fulfilling and important reality.

None of these myths are more important to overcome than the impression that our work is less noble and nuanced than it is. As long as our colleagues don’t understand the value of our work and our professionalism, it will be a barrier to successful fundraising.

Let’s look at how this misunderstanding can manifest in the minds of faculty, physicians and other partners – and what we know to be true instead. Do you recognize any of these misconceptions?

  • Myth: Fundraising is like sales.
  • Fact: In philanthropy, the donor is not driven by a need for an item, but rather by values and goals. Unlike sales, where there is an item or activity to be purchased, fundraisers offer opportunities to act upon personal beliefs about philanthropy, community and issues of concern to prospects. Most fundraisers do not receive a “commission” based upon amount of money raised.
  • Myth: Fundraising is about begging for money, and people don’t like to be asked to give.
  • Fact: Giving to a cause that is personally meaningful is a rewarding activity. Fundraising is the process of getting to know prospects’ values and ability to donate, and then offering gift opportunities based upon this information so that donors can act in alignment with their beliefs and values.
  • Myth: I could never do what you do – asking for money is so hard and awkward. And, I don’t want to offend someone by asking for such a large amount…it seems crass.
  • Fact: Once you’ve practiced and seen some success, you’ll be surprised how much less awkward or impossible this work feels. When done correctly, the solicitation is a natural next step in the conversation, rather than a surprise, and the amount is a reflection of the prospect’s ability and desire to have an impact.
  • Myth: Development staff are often pushy with prospects and will make prospects uncomfortable.
  • Fact: A fundraiser is successful by building prospects’ trust in the institution and its ability to impact a cause, and by developing respectful and purposeful relationships – so it is counterproductive to make prospects uncomfortable. However, fundraisers are often in the role of keeping philanthropic conversations on track to allow faculty, physicians and other experts to play different roles.

Perhaps one of our most challenging and rewarding opportunities in this field is to educate and inspire our partners to see the facts about fundraising, and then to welcome those partners more fully into this irreplaceable work. Imagine how your results would increase if you could move some of your colleagues from myth to fact. In fact, I would argue that we should regularly ensure that our interactions are serving this very purpose, by demonstrating our integrity and communicating clearly.

If you’d like to ensure that your faculty, physicians and other colleagues are prepared to be full partners in the philosophy and practicalities of fundraising, KDD Philanthropy’s unique approach to training may be the right fit for your institution. Our focus on providing hands-on, real-world scenarios allows our partners to gain true insight and appreciation for fundraising, and their role in it.

Contact us today to learn more about our offerings!

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