Your stories can transform nonprofits -- a TEDx Talk with Andrea Proulx Buinicki

Andrea Proulx Buinicki is the founder of Giving Focus, a philanthropy consulting firm specializing in helping smaller nonprofits ditch the professional fundraisers and take command of their own fundraising.  Buinicki started Giving Focus in 2011 after 15 years of working in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, and was recognized in 2012 by The Northwest Indiana Times as one of Northwest Indiana’s top “20 Under 40” for her exceptional career in philanthropy.

In this TEDx Talk, Buinicki focuses on the all-important story behind your fundraising efforts.

It’s no secret strolling up to a donor with your palm out saying, “we need, we need, we need” isn’t a great way to raise money for your cause.  It didn’t work for us when we were teenagers asking our parents for money--it’s definitely not going to work for you talking to a stranger.  Your donors need to know why they should give you that money.

But as Buinicki describes, just telling a sad story about those who benefit from your services won’t make you a world-class fundraiser, either.

Her advice is to be mindful of the three key aspects of any fundraising pitch:

The Need: this is what your nonprofit hopes to get from your donors, like funding, volunteer hours, or skills

The Service: or what your nonprofit provides for the community, like meals, clothing, clean water, shelter, etc.

And The Outcome: this is the end result of your nonprofit’s work.  Buinicki categorizes these by condition (a hungry person is fed, a sick person is treated), circumstance (an unemployed person is given a job, a homeless person is given a place to live), and being (someone with low self-esteem finds confidence, someone with mental illness finds treatment and becomes happier or more functional).

Most fundraisers know how to channel the first two aspects in a good fundraising story, but Buinicki would say the secret of a really great fundraising story is focusing on that third part: the outcome.  She also calls this the transformation.

The transformation element of your story has a two-fold impact on your donors:

First, it tells the story everyone really wants to hear.  We want to hear someone’s life was truly transformed for the better because of your work.  It leaves us with an encouraged feeling and it leaves us believing that your programs and services really help those in need.

And second, it’s the transformation that connects the donor with the person in your story. 

Buinicki talks about meeting a woman struggling with addiction.  Because of the work of a local nonprofit, this woman has a better life today.  While she can sympathize with this woman’s fight against addiction, Buinicki says she couldn’t connect with it never having fought addiction herself.  

But when this woman spoke about the root of her recovery and learning to love herself again, Buinicki connects immediately--who can’t understand a feeling like that?

As you tell your own fundraising stories, don’t merely focus on your needs and your programs.  Make sure you ask yourself whether you’ve made your fundraising story about the people you help--and most importantly, whether you’ve shown the positive transformation that will speak to your donor’s heart.

D'awwww, you guys!

We are always looking for feedback from our clients and friends so we can serve them better and give them the best possible fundraising experience with us.

But nothing feels better than getting positive feedback from our team members right here at home!

Sophia Hunt in Donor Relations shares her favorite thing about working at Engage.

We couldn't agree more -- and our family wouldn't be complete without her.  Thank you, Sophia!

Dan Pallota: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

"Philanthropy is the market for love."

Dan Pallota, founder and President of the Charity Defense Council and author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, has spent his career going to bat for the nonprofit sector.

In his 2013 TED Talk -- one of the 100 most viewed TED Talks of all time -- Pallota attacks the all-too-common idea that for nonprofits, success and trustworthiness can only be measured by the money an organization doesn't spend.

This belief, lovingly called "the Overhead Myth" by those of us involved with nonprofit fundraising, has long been a ball and chain around the ankle of every small charity.  It's the belief that an organization must go to extraordinary lengths to reduce organizational costs and spending so that the highest percentage possible of every dime donated ends up in the pockets of benefactors.  

The problem?  Charities are already limiting overhead expenses as much as they can -- in some cases, to the detriment of fundraising efforts and operational efficiency -- and many potential donors still say it's not enough.

And that's when these donors take their money elsewhere.

But without employees, without a facility to operate out of, without transportation, and without funding to produce educational materials and promote projects, there is no charity.  And when nonprofits are compelled to cut funding from these areas, the services and outreach provided by these charities suffer.

The old adage goes, "you gotta spend money to make money," and most people would probably agree -- when it comes to business.  But when it comes to nonprofits?  Many people still take a frugality = morality stance.  And it's hurting charities -- and more importantly, the people they serve.

This TED Talk has been viewed more than 8 MILLION times.  And with good reason!  Take a look.

D'awwww, you guys!

We are always looking for feedback from our clients and friends so we can serve them better and give them the best possible fundraising experience with us.

But nothing feels better than getting positive feedback from our team members right here at home!

Liana Holland, Accounts Payable Specialist, shares her favorite thing about working here at Engage.

Thank you, Liana!  You make our environment more fun every day!  We're glad you're with us!

 

D'awwww, you guys!

We are always looking for feedback from our clients and friends so we can serve them better and give them the best possible fundraising experience with us.

But nothing feels better than getting positive feedback from our team members right here at home!

Ashley Parker, our Accounts Payable Specialist, was nice enough to share why she loves being a part of the Engage family.

Thank you so much, Ashley!  We'd be lost without you! =)

Grammar? We don't need no stinking grammar!

Here’s a direct mail pro-tip: once you’ve finished writing the Greatest Fundraising Letter Ever, read it aloud to yourself.

Does it sound choppy?  Are your sentences short?  Are you starting sentences with conjunctions, repeating yourself, breaking sentences between pages, and leaving all those annoying commas out of the mix?

No?

I hate to break it to you, but if that’s the case, you might want to toss that first draft in the circular file and start again.

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