Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money
When you consider the ubiquitous raffles, benefit events, cookie and candy sales, most of us have far more fundraising experience than we realize. Many people have sales backgrounds and ask for money every day. Others have prepared grant proposals or solicited corporate gifts. The purpose of this activity is to assess the fundraising skill level of your team and to reinforce the idea that your colleagues know more than they think. It's also a fun, physical activity that gets people moving.
Why Do This Exercise?
To uncover useful information about how best to engage members of your fundraising team
Use This Exercise When
You want to address board assumptions about fundraising, or during an early meeting of your development committee, campaign committee, or other fundraising group
10 to 20 minutes, depending on the number of questions you ask
Anyone involved with your fundraising campaign: some combination of board, staff, and volunteers
A space with enough room for people to move around. If the weather's nice and you have a reasonably quiet location, this activity works well outdoors, too.
Facilitating the Exercise
- Ask everyone to stand in one line shoulder to shoulder in random order, facing you.
- Explain that you'll be asking a series of questions such as "How many years of experience do you have in fundraising?" and "What's the biggest amount you've ever asked for?" According to the answers they give, participants will then position themselves along the line, those with the most experience standing at one end and those with the least experience at the other. Emphasize that to create the correct sequence they need to talk to each other as they move around: "I have three years of fundraising experience—who has less than that? Who has more?"
Sample questions; choose the ones that seem most interesting and relevant.
- How many years in total have you been doing any sort of fundraising? For your organization, other groups, your church or school, as a staff member or volunteer. (For instance, selling Girl Scout cookies counts.) How many total years?
- What's the largest amount you've ever asked for face to face? You can include a charitable solicitation, a grant proposal—if you met with the funder in person—or raising money for a business. You can even include asking your parents, but you can't include your mortgage. Notice that the verb is "ask," not "get." What's your largest face-to-face ask?
- How would you rate your comfort in asking? This end (point to one end of the line) equals deeply uncomfortable. At the other end (point in that direction), asking is no big deal. Where would you stand on the spectrum?
- In a typical year, how many different nonprofits do you support financially?
- How would you rate the amount of planning you do as a donor? At one end (point to one end of the line), you tend to give money spontaneously. At the other end (point), you tend to plan—maybe you even have an estate plan so organizations will benefit when you pass away. Where do you stand?
- How many hours per month—realistically—do you have available to help with fundraising for our organization?
Once you've asked a question and participants settle into their positions along the line, you may need to ring a bell or blow a whistle to get their attention and quiet the conversations. Go down the line, asking each person to name their number: number of years, largest ask, level of comfort. You can also call on people as you see fit to provide more detail. "Joe, you say the largest amount you've asked for is $1,000? What was the circumstance?"
Look for opportunities to draw useful conclusions. For example, "There are 10 of us in the room, and we've got more than 100 years of experience among us. I bet we know more about fundraising than we realize." Or try this: "Looks like we have a wide range of available time; some of us can offer only a few hours per month. Maybe we should choose at least a few fundraising strategies that don't require a big time commitment."
- Once you've commented on responses to one question, ask another. Feel free even to make up your own, but note that this exercise doesn't work with yes-or-no questions. Your questions must allow individuals to rate themselves along a continuum.
Ask everyone to return to their seats, then debrief the exercise by asking the following questions:
- What did you learn about our group?
- What did you learn about your experience and expertise in relation to the other members of the group?
Pay attention to everyone's body language. Depending on the number of questions you ask and how talkative people are, this exercise can easily run too long. If you see people starting to sag—leaning against walls, moving away from the line to take a seat, or just physically slumping—look for an opportunity to end the exercise promptly and have everyone return to their seats.
Other Excerpts from This Book
- Where's the Money?
- What Drew You to This Work?
- Building a Board Fundraising Ladder
- Fundraising from the Inside Out
- Getting Started as a Fundraising Trainer
Andrea Kihlsted and Andy Robinson
© 2014, Andrea Kihlsted and Andy Robinson. Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money: A Cookbook of Easy-to-Use Fundraising Exercises. Excerpted with permission of Emerson & Church Publishers.
Andrea Kihlstedt is author of How to Raise $1 Million (or More!) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps. She has served the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years as a fundraiser, trainer, consultant, teacher, writer, and speaker. She has trained nonprofit boards and staff throughout the United States on effective major gifts fundraising, capital campaigns, and how to ask for gifts. Kihlstedt is cofounder (with Gail Perry) of Capital Campaign Magic, providing online learning about capital campaign fundraising.
Andy Robinson provides training and consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, grantseeking, board development, marketing, earned income, planning, leadership development, and facilitation. Andy has worked with organizations in 47 U.S. states and Canada and is the author of six books. His latest include How to Raise $500 to $5000 from Almost Anyone, The Board Member’s Easier Than You Think Guide to Nonprofit Finances, and Great Boards for Small Groups.