Like a Politician

What can those of us involved in fundraising learn from politicians when it comes to raising money?  For starters there are ways not to collect contributions, such as the voicemail left by Eleanor Norton.  Even a skilled politician fumbles with the idea of asking for a donation, even in this case when it borders on corruption.  What we can learn from politics is that certain approaches work in the short-term.  Creating an environment laced with fear, an uncertain future, and serious repercussions if the other party’s candidate is elected generates an urgency to give.  What endures is a message of a brighter future, a shared belief, a common value system.  Fear inflicts immediate pain but hope endures.  Look no further than the number of emergency appeals that circulated the nonprofit sector during 2009.  Many claimed all would be lost without additional funding.  It worked for a few months but the appeal would not float today.  Donors understand that enterprises that have not adapted to the new economy and its realities probably are not sustainable.  However, the same causes that appealed for an investment in a greater good and a higher purpose could recirculate the same appeals today and receive a warm reception.  Throwing a life raft off a burning platform is the right thing to do when the the structure is sinking.  Tossing a life ring into calm seas when all is well seems irrational.  Much of politics is based on creating a sense that the platform continues to burn daily.  Much of the social sector is based on creating a better future.  Which path your philanthropic dollars follow is a personal choice.  Which one is more rewarding is also based on individual assessment.  Understanding the techniques deployed by fundraisers is fundamental to success.

What inspires your fundraising efforts?

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