Any good fundraising professional will be quick to educate a listener about donor development terminology. It’s not fundraising, they will say, it’s friend-raising. I’ll touch on the basics: Method and message.

Thousands of books have been written about fundraising, each with one or two little tidbits that could help a charity or trade nonprofit in their quest for life-giving cashflow and long-term financial stability. I was lucky enough to work alongside a man who made developing donors a high art. His methodology was first to pick two or three team members who had expansive “rolodexes” they were willing to share.

Assuming we are talking about an event to raise money, he was careful to select a date that had no competition for his target, a tough job in Los Angeles.

Next, design a special letterhead with all of the board of directors and committee chair people listed down the side. You’d do that, right? But here’s the specialness: Ask impossible to get dignitaries, famous folk in your industry, or a star to lend their name to the letterhead. Those are the Honorary Chairs. Whatever it may mean in your group or cause, you essentially want star power. Then craft a letter at least three months ahead to send out for sponsorship of the event.

The content of the letter is vital. Compellingly and emotionally you must say what the funds are going to do. Show how much impact their money is going to have on something important. This is the time to brand your event. Include a short story on your good work, how last year’s event money made a difference. Be specific. Pictures? Perhaps.

The ask? There should be three tiers with the highest an over-the-title privilege, if that is appropriate for your group. Remember, you are not selling tickets yet, or tables, or entrances. That’s next month after you’ve secured the major funds to be able to produce your event.

Only after you’ve netted major support do you build your web page (either a special website just for the event or redesign your existing site’s landing page to feature the event). Now you can spotlight your underwriters, honoring their commitment publicly.

I’ll stop here as this is a blog not a book. More tips from the master next time. But I’ve shared what I saw time and again with my friend’s ever-successful fundraising technique: Start right.

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