This past week my class at Ohio University had the privilege of hearing Dr. Donna Lopiano speak on many topics ranging from marketing women’s sports to impact of media on college athletics. Drawing on her past experience as Director of Women’s Athletics for the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Lopiano also gave ten tips for raising money for your organization.
1.) If you ask for advice, you get money; ask for money, you get advice
This premise comes from the logic that your donors are successful people who will appreciate being asked for their opinion. Essentially, they will feel as if the development officer is looking to them for their expertise.
To do this, begin by telling the story of why you need their money, what dream it would fulfill and the positive effects that appeal to the donor. Then ask for their advice on how the dream can become a reality. This will often lead to them either giving more contacts or a monetary donation.
2.) Grow and engage a contact list
The larger the list of contacts or potential donors the better, increasing the probability of successful gifts. The next step is setting up a relationship building event, whether it is a long lunch or a dinner party. During this event, a relationship with a potential donor can begin, where the development officer should be in contact at least twice a month, whether through email, phone call, or hand written note. One nice touch she mentioned was send them an article about your program with a hand written note on the top.
3.) Always think in terms of utilizing a gift to generate more gifts
Dr. Lopiano had a unique way of looking at the asking process. Often times during her asks, she would say she needed 10 people to give $10,000 and ask if the donor knew others who would be willing to give. This causes the donor to think of others, or open their own checkbook to the amount being asked.
4.) Donors give to people with work ethic
A strong work ethic is essential from the outset. Donors, especially for ones who made their own money, know what it takes to be successful. Essentially they are making an investment and want to give their money to people who have the work ethic make the donation worth every penny.
5.) Always focus attention on 20% of your donor population
In Dr. Lopiano’s view, a good development officer will focus on the top 20% of donors who have the ability to impact the program in a major way. This does not mean forgetting about annual giving, but instead having people and strategies to grow that without consuming a large amount of time and energy from the major gifts officers.
6.) Building a circle of influential people
People will know and support your program if there is a solid base of donors who are influential people in the community. In building a culture of success among your donor base, it will become more attractive for other wealthy people to join. This can come through the creation of an advisory board or special events for those who have the ability to impact the program.
7.) Believing and acting in partnership
This partnership stems from the reciprocity that occurs during the donation process. Each donor has their passions and interests in life and by asking what you can do for them, the relationship will only grow stronger. People of wealth believe in efficiency, and in helping them out, you will build a connections that will benefit both parties.
8.) List what is important for a donor
This is the basis for all major gift asks and it involves doing your research. Donors will be interested a wide range of opportunities. Some are interested in the branding of their name, which will involve naming rights gifts. For others, it may be autographed memorabilia, inside access, etc. Bottom line, do your research on your donors.
9.) Mimic the practice of large institutional programs
While your university or college might not have the resources of some of the larger programs, build on the assets that are available. Essentially this revolves around making your events and programs exciting to attend. Whether it is a the new practice facility or perhaps a star player returning to campus, having a draw at an event will increase participation and help you tell your story.
10.) Play all of the multi-media avenues
Use all available channels to get your name and university in the public conscience. This can be through an effective website, writing a column for a local paper, or promoting your program through social networking opportunities. In doing this, the program and your name will be available through many avenues. With the advent of the internet, many donors will google your name before they meet. Having a large amount of hits will increase your profile and their reception of you.
Dr. Donna Lopiano is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation (1992-2007) and was named one of “The 10 Most Powerful Women in Sports” by Fox Sports. The Sporting News has repeatedly listed her as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in Sports.” Dr. Lopiano also served for 18 years as the University of Texas at Austin Director of Women’s Athletics and is a past-president of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
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