In our last post, we talked about the WRONG ways to approach the richest folks in town for a gift. Now we’re going to look at the RIGHT ways.
Capital campaigns are an opportunity to draw a few, new key donors to your organization. The focus will still remain on your existing donors, but you’ll also take advantage of the exciting plans and big bold vision to engage a few potential new ones as well.
They’re Just Like You and Me
Rich people put on their pants one leg at a time just like you do. They have concerns like you do. They must juggle competing priorities like you do…
- Perhaps one of their children is having behavior problems or a parent has just been diagnosed with cancer.
- Chances are good that they wrestle with their weight and keep telling themselves to exercise more.
- Maybe they’re not so happy with their lives right now.
But in one way, wealthy donors are different. Their wealth often creates uncomfortable expectations. Because many people think that someone who has lots money should give some to them! And that sense of expectation may make wealthy people put up their guard.
In other words, it’s likely that they have been approached — even hounded — in all the wrong ways because of their money. So you’ll want to keep that in mind and try not to approach them as just another person looking for their money.
I often think of this sense of obligation when I feel myself becoming guarded in the subway when a poor person asks me for help. The sense of having money in the face of need is uncomfortable. And, though at a different level, it’s no different from what wealthy people feel when asked for money from every organization in town.
Two Guiding Principles
Before you approach a wealthy individual about your campaign, remember these two key principals and keep them on the top of your mind.
Principle 1: Your needs do not trump their needs.
Just because you need money isn’t a reason for a wealthy person to give to your cause. Each individual has their own pet projects and causes that they are passionate about, as well as ideas and feelings about how and when they will (or won’t) donate money.
Principle 2: Having wealth is no reason to give.
Just because someone has lots of money isn’t a reason they should give to your cause. You can probably think of several wealthy individuals in the news today who are not philanthropic and simply don’t give to charity.
Why Will a Wealthy Person Give to Your Cause?
A wealthy person is likely to give to your organization if their gift will help them accomplish something that is important to them.
That’s right. People (wealthy or otherwise) give to help themselves! Sometimes they do get a direct benefit, like bringing art to their community. Other times they get more intrinsic benefits, like when they rescue animals. And in that idea is the key to how to approach a wealthy person.
Your job is to find out what your wealthy person cares about and to determine why what you do matters to them. Sometimes it’s simple, like bringing more resources and services to a community they care about. Sometimes it’s more personal — like their mother died of cancer.
Don’t try to force a round peg in a square hole. If you can’t find a connection, don’t force one.
3 Ways to Approach Wealthy People for a Gift
Here are three specific things to do once you have identified the wealthiest people in your community.
1. Learn about their real interests.
Do as much homework as possible to find out whether the wealthy person’s interests overlap with your cause.
- Find out who they already give to and whether those organizations are related to what you do.
- Learn what you can about the community of people they associate with. Look for relationships you share.
- Look beyond their money for areas of expertise or experience that might be helpful to you.
Most of this information is best found right in your community. When you start paying attention and asking questions, you’ll find that you can learn a huge amount about the wealthiest people in your town. Read the newspaper. Attend social events. Ask people about them.
2. Approach them from the perspective of their interests.
Once you have learned that a wealthy person in your town has an interest that overlaps with your mission, then you can get in touch with them, ideally through someone they already know.
They key here is that you’re not contacting them to talk about your needs. Rather, you’re contacting them to talk about your mutual interests.
3. Ask them for their advice.
Asking for advice is often a good idea. But don’t just use it as a ploy. You should only ask for advice that someone can credibly give. Your wealthy donors will know if you are “playing” them, so resist the temptation to do that.
It may take some work on your part to identify a topic of real, mutual interest, but it will pay off. If they have a special area of professional expertise, it makes sense to ask them about that.
Feasibility studies are another opportunity to get feedback and input from people about your early campaign plans. If they have served on many campaign committees, you might ask them for feedback on your plans.
You Have More In Common Than You Think
Once you get over your misconceptions that rich people are so different and that they won’t want to talk with you, you’ll find that if you share common interests, you may be able to bridge the wealth gap and build a relationship that might lead to a gift.
Your best approach is to find someone you have in common. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, and networking to find mutual connections.
Just remember, the key is to treat them like people and focus on your mutual interests. Do that, and you’ll be well on your way.
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