Why meet with your favorite charity?

When someone from a charitable organization (like me) asks to meet with you, your first instinct is probably to say no. Maybe you’re worried they’ll twist your arm for more money. Maybe you’re protective of your time. Maybe you’re concerned about wasting the charity’s time. Or maybe it’s not even a conscious decision. You’re just used to saying no—to telemarketers, evangelists at your door, the mall kiosk people hawking e-cigarettes. no, No, NO!

With so many people in your face trying to sell you something or get something from you let’s not lose sight of one simple fact, that those who donate to and support charities are lifesavers. 

Whether it be to a local homeless shelter, an animal rescue or to an international aid project, the dollars and time given to non-profit organizations often directly result in a life saved or changed. I know from having many meetings and conversations with donors and volunteers that they see their contribution of money and/or time to a non-profit as a significant investment in their favorite cause and in the community that the charity serves.

There are many benefits to donors who spend some time meeting with a representative from the charities they support. Let’s take a look at a few: 

  • Be Informed: Meeting with a representative from the organization is a great way to ask questions that would not normally be published in a press release, Facebook post or organization newsletter. You can ask about fundraising effectiveness (what % of money raised is spent on programs/services vs. overhead costs), follow up on a local event, or ask for clarification on something you’ve heard. Most importantly this meeting gives you an opportunity to meet with the organization’s leadership and allows you to evaluate the strength of the group you are investing in.

  •  Make a Difference: By developing relationships within the organization you can have a better understanding of their needs and of the needs of your community. You can develop a direct line to the leadership that allows you to make an impact directly and quickly. Know of a funding opportunity? Have an idea that can increase a program’s effectiveness? Use your relationships to pass that along quickly and directly to decision makers.  

  • Protect your investment: Look at this meeting as a meeting with an advisor, someone who wants to help you with your investment.  Someone who invests your money on your behalf and who wants to share the returns with you. You can check for portfolio growth, strength of the management team and what your investment has achieved. 

  • Get free advice: Non-profit professionals know that a donor is likely supporting 3-5 other charities through donations or volunteer time. We also support a variety of charities through our own personal philanthropy. Good development professionals understand that you want to feel good about your philanthropy and you want to make a difference. To us that means understanding what your personal mission is and helping you achieve it.  Remember, this is a partnership between two people not simply a “donor” and a “fundraiser.”  This is your time for YOU to get the answers and information YOU want. 

Given all these benefits, why do many donors refuse to meet with an organization to discuss a new program or when new leadership has stepped in? Here are a few reasons I’ve heard:

  •  I don’t want to be asked for money: Many donors have had either a personal experience or have heard a story about a telemarketer or fundraiser who is just looking for money. The fundraiser doesn’t care about your needs or your situation and just wants you to give again and give more! Few professional fundraisers or non-profit executives will ask for money on a first meeting and most will make it clear before future meetings that they would like to discuss a donation.  A good non-profit professional is interested in getting to know their donors on a personal level, develop a relationship and understand your philanthropy goals – not simply show up with their hand out. 

  • I don’t want to waste the organization’s time or money: Remember, donors make running a non-profit possible! A donor who has invested significant time or money into supporting an organization should never feel like they are wasting time or money by meeting with a charity’s representative. Many organizations employ development professionals whose job it is to meet with supporters, and these meetings are never a waste of time. Remember, our goal is to get to know you and develop a partnership.  

  • I am “familiar with what you do and trust you”– I love this, and I appreciate the trust that working for a reputable organization garners. However, the non-profit climate can change quickly and dramatically and it may have been a few years since you last had a close look at what’s going on. Maybe we have a new executive director and we are about to launch a new social program that targets at risk youth after school. Can we meet for lunch? You may really like our new leadership and this program is something you have been saying the city needed for years. I’d love to share with you our plans and expected outcomes and see what you think of them. 

  • I don’t give enough to rate a personal visit– It’s not just about the amount a donor gives, whether it’s $100 a month or $250,000 a year, if you care about and are invested in the organization then it’s your right to ask for a meeting or conversation. You never know, your story or input may inspire others.  

I understand that meeting with a fundraiser for the first time can be awkward and a little bit intimidating. Not many people like to be put on the spot, asked for money, or talk about themselves in detail. But being proactive and having at least an annual review with the main charities you support can have a very positive impact on your personal philanthropy. In many cases, you will be aiding the mission of the charity even more by being in a place to offer more guidance and support if you choose to do so.  

I encourage you to meet with a representative of your favorite non-profits and discuss the impact your efforts are having on the people they serve or the projects they are tackling.  Ask how you can be a lifesaver.

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