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.