Relationship Building and Fundraising

By: Jay Lugo, Executive Director, Idaho Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation & Executive Director, Idaho Lions Eye Bank

I have directed a service based nonprofit for 13 years and have been employed by the same organization for 24 years. The term “Strategic Fundraising” was not understood or utilized in our organization’s vocabulary 24 years ago. However, we did understand relationships and how building those relationships could lead to a positive leadership team and eventually, strategic fundraising.

The Idaho Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation fills a unique niche in our community by providing sight and hearing services to the blind, deaf, and financially disadvantaged. Today, through strategic fundraising and board leadership, we have re-birthed an organization by shifting our focus to carefully selected (affinity based) donor relationships.

Our nonprofit has five individual programs and they all have their own uniqueness. Therefore, our strategic fundraising plan is not one big plan that encompasses all programs, but is five different plans, one for each program. Each program and fundraising plan has objectives that only apply to that program. So why not utilize one all-encompassing plan, you might ask? Each specified program will appeal to a different section of our donor pool. In other words, we try to find the donor pools that have an affinity to a certain program. One program is focused on providing eye donor corneas for transplant. Another program is a free vision clinic, one is providing hearing aids to the less fortunate, one program pays for needed surgeries, and one program is internationally based. So, as you can see (pun intended), if you have a connection to hearing or deafness you are going to be more apt to donate to our hearing programs and not to our vision programs. This is beneficial and widens the target of potential donors. We must go out and identify those prospects with a connection to that certain campaign. Strategic fundraising has helped our endowment campaign because of the variety of programs and the variety of potential prospects.

One of our greatest attributes is our new outlook on leadership. We would never be able to fundraise without proper leadership. As stated in Principle 3 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising®: Leadership Leads™. This implies leadership does not necessarily begin with a CEO, COO, or Executive Director. It must start at the board level. Anyone that is going to give a significant amount to an organization knows that leadership starts in the board room. Donors are wise and know to review your board members and your day-to-day leadership closely. Do your board members have the relevant credentials? Is your leadership constantly developing or are they seat warmers? A clear strategic fundraising program provides clarity for our leadership (board of trustees) so they will know exactly how to clarify our plan to those they carefully approach for sustainable fundraising. This also helps our staff distinguish between programs, fundraising strategies, and our ultimate mission of impacting sight, hearing, and health.

Strategic fundraising starts with building relationships and then proceeds to program connectivity. First, one must pinpoint program connectivity to relate with a potential donor. Next, recommendations may be given on how they can help, resolve objections if any arise, and above all, continue to provide value to your donor and your community.  Make your donors part of the team by including them in all correspondence. You may even go above and beyond by writing a separate newsletter that only your “established relationships” receive.

Whether you are asking for a small or large gift, your prospect needs to know they can depend on you and trust you. Sustainable fundraising can only be found in genuine connections with members of your community. Donors are investing in YOU and your leadership! Build relationships that your donors or prospects know they can depend on and if something goes wrong, you’ll be there!

  Jay has served as Executive Director of Idaho Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation and the Idaho Lions Eye Bank for over two decades.  In addition to his executive role, Jay serves on numerous nonprofit and corporate boards. Through his work promoting health sight and hearing, Jay is passionate about philanthropy which is built upon bilateral relationships between giver and receiver.  He’s committed to fundraising which builds sustainable revenue.

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