The Only Difference is Zeros

10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

In 1984, as part of the first real job of my career, I had just come to New York City and joined NBA Properties, the official licensing arm of the National Basketball Association. In Denver that year, we were about to introduce to the basketball world a new concept—the NBA All-Star Weekend. Back then it was to include two showcase events—the Slam-Dunk Championship and what we called then, the Old Timers Game. (Soon after we found that our participants in that game preferred we call it the Legends Game!).

My responsibilities that year included putting together a shoe deal for those participating in the Old Timers Game. We identified a provider and put a deal together that, at the time, seemed like huge dollars. The shoe provider would provide the shoes and $5,000! But, if more than 13 of the 24 participants would actually wear the sneakers during the game, NBA Properties would be paid $7,500. As only 11 of the players actually wore the shoes in the first half, I actually went into both locker rooms at halftime and aggressively campaigned for two more players to wear the shoes the second half—thus earning us an additional $2,500! Days not soon forgotten.

Flash forward to 1997, and I am now serving as the managing director of marketing for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. I am now participating in sponsorship presentations where the asking price is $50,000,000. Many times it was not lost on me that certainly some things had changed from the $5,000 asks to now the $50,000,000 asks. And yet, in taking a closer look, the development/fundraising process was, for both asks, very, very similar. The only difference is the zeros!

Over the coming weeks, now having spent over 25 years in the fundraising/development/sponsorship world, I will be sharing what I have come to see as 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising. Steps that I have come to trust and use along the way, and which have served me well—from the NBA to Children’s Miracle Network to the Massachusetts Sports & Film Partnership to Operation Kids. Hopefully this list of steps will be of value to you as you pursue development and fundraising activities for the organization you represent.

Step #1: Love what you do and love who you represent!

Before you embark on any capital campaign, annual fundraising effort, donor program or revenue-generating activity, make sure you are passionate about the organization you represent, energized about the services and impact your organization provides, and that you flat-out love what you are doing. With so much competition for individual or family donor dollars, foundation dollars, or corporate dollars, the very first impression that the person you are presenting to needs to know and feel, is that you, as a representative of your organization, has a true passion and burning emotion for that which you are presenting and offering.

If you don’t truly care about the mission and purpose of the organization you are representing, and the services and assistance they provide, why should the person you are presenting to care either?

You have to have it inside of you. It needs to burn…not real hot some days and cooler other days. That passion for your organization and what it stands for and provides must burn steady, and burn bright. That passion for what you do and who you represent must be that “special sauce” that gets you out of bed everyday, and inspires you, day in and day out, to work hard, to prepare and to compete.

Without it, potential donors partners will see through you and will likely share in your transparent disinterest. With it, potential donors will say to themselves, “There is something deeper going on here and I need to find out more.” Before a person believes in your organization and your mission, they first must believe in you.

Next Week:    Step #2: Define who you are, what you are, what you can provide, and what you are offering!

-Don Stirling

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7 Comments

Filed under Better Fundraising and Development, Initiative: Nonprofit Operations

7 responses to “The Only Difference is Zeros

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