I travel a good bit, speaking at conferences, and I also lead a lot of webinars.

So it’s no surprise that I get asked a LOT of questions about fundraising.

I don’t mind answering them, and I’m tickled that people feel comfortable enough right after meeting me to ask a question.

Sometimes, the questions make me shake my head and wonder how these folks are making it.

You see, sometimes people ask the wrong questions.

It’s clear to me that sometimes folks are focused on the wrong thing. They’re more concerned about the technique than the result.

It’s easy to do. There are LOTS of workshops and webinars out there telling you the finer points of grant writing or direct mail or social media. And you need to know those things.

But you MUST stay focused on the most important parts of fundraising or the techniques don’t matter.

Here are 5 questions that you shouldn’t be asking along with better questions to get you focused on the right thing.

1. “Why won’t my Board help with fundraising?” This one is really common and sometimes there’s a variation on it like “How can I get my Board to fundraise?” This tells me you have an expectation that they should be helping you. Granted, they should, but most people who join a nonprofit Board don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to. They don’t come with full knowledge of how good fundraising works. And it’s your job to help them along. The question you should be asking is “What do I need to do to help my Board understand fundraising and feel comfortable helping?”

2.“How long should my fundraising letter be?” I get this one all the time. People are too focused on the length of the letter instead of the content. Should it be one page? Two pages? Here’s the answer: make it as long as it needs to be to adequately say what it needs to say. It’s more important to tell a story that engages the reader and keeps them reading, moving them to take action. The question you should be asking is “What do I need to say to help my reader feel inspired and want to give?”

3. “What are some fundraisers that are working for others?”  Folks who don’t understand donor-based fundraising always lean toward events or ‘fundraisers.’ While there’s a place for a really well-done event, it’s easy for young organizations to get on what I call the “Special Event Hamster Wheel” where they spend a ton of time working really hard and never bring in the kind of money they need. It’s exhausting and the ROI is terrible. Stop looking for the latest and greatest, and instead ask, “What could we do that would give us the results we need, based on our organizational strengths and goals?” What have you got that you could leverage? In the Get Fully Funded system, I talk about organizational ass ets that lend themselves to various events so you can get the absolute most from your efforts.

4. “Why won’t our Facebook fans give? If each one would just give a dollar…” There are a couple of problems with this one. First, you’re assuming that people who ‘like’ your page actually care about your mission. I know it may come as a shock, but they may simply be a casual supporter and see that ‘liking’ your page is their way of supporting you. Second, have you given them something worth supporting? Are you asking them to ‘help us reach our goal’ or are you asking them to ‘help change a life?’ There’s a big difference. If you want to see more donations from your Facebook tribe, you should be asking “What are we doing to inspire our Facebook fans to give?”

5. “Where do we find rich people and how can we get them to give?” I get this one from the people who are trying the nonprofit version of the ‘get rich quick’ scheme. They want a sugar daddy to write them a big check and be done with it. I’m all for big gifts, but most (or all) of your revenue from one donor is dangerous. If that one donor goes away, what will you do?  Instead of looking for the ‘rich people’ in town, look for folks who are likely to care about your cause and start engaging them. Focus on the relationship, not the money. The relationship is WAY more valuable. If you want big gifts, ask “Who is the ideal person to give to us and how can we best connect with them?” Build the relationship one step at a time for best results.

Did you catch the theme here? It’s all about the relationships you have with your donors. Without them, there isn’t much fundraising to do.

Your turn.

What questions have you heard or have you asked that may be the wrong questions? Be brave and share them in the comments on the blog. We may just select a winner to ask a question directly to me.

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