Published on September 30, 2013 by

The difference between fundraising and begging

    “I’m not going to beg!”

Frustrated fundraisers (and in some cases CEOs) have told me this is the response they get when trying to involve board members in fundraising.

This is a great shame as it’s costing many charities thousands of dollars each year. Possibly even tens or hundreds of thousands. Money that could be used to help more people, more animals or whatever your cause is.

So I decided to write something to show the difference between fundraising and begging.

Characteristics of beggars

When you’re begging, you have no relationship with the prospect. You develop no right to ask. You put yourself out there passively hoping for a response.

Think of the classic beggar on the street with a box and hand-lettered cardboard sign, “I’m homeless, please help”.

What’s this beggar doing wrong in terms of successful fundraising?

  1. He has no relationship with anyone he’s asking from.
  2. He does not target likely prospects for giving. He has his hand out to anyone and everyone who crosses his path.
  3. He makes people feel pity, guilt or revulsion for him. But he gives no assurance their money will really make a long-term difference.
  4. He doesn’t guarantee or report back on how the money he collects will be spent. Will it be food? Clothes so he can go to a job interview? Or drugs and alcohol?
  5. Even if he gets a few coins, they will be one-off tokens. He rarely gets a gift from the same person twice.

That’s what begging is. Desperately asking for money from anyone without any accountability for how it will be spent.

Characteristics of fundraisers

In contrast, fundraising is about building relationships with donors. You develop trust and the right to keep asking.

Over time, you ask for funds knowing your donors will give.

If you do it right, within your database will emerge a group of your most loyal donors. They will be the ones for whom giving to your cause is a way of expressing their values. When you ask for funds from them, that’s not begging. That’s giving them an opportunity to live out their values.

Unlike begging, fundraising is about:

  1. Acquiring and building relationships with donors who share your vision and values.
  2. Targeting prospective givers who are likely to support your mission.
  3. Forging an emotional connection with donors. This involves evoking compassion for the people you serve and the conviction that the donors' gifts will make a difference.
  4. Thanking donors, being accountable and reporting back to them on how their gifts have been spent.
  5. Asking regularly for donations – and getting them. Because you’ve demonstrated that you can be trusted and have made your donors partners in your cause.

So obviously, if you want to be a successful fundraiser, you actually have to want to build relationships with your donors. If you’re just after their money then you, as a charity, are no better than beggars.

This is what fundraising beggars look like:

  1. You build no relationship with your donors. Hence you’re surprised or overjoyed when you actually get donations.
  2. You target the people least likely to support your cause. Either you ask people who don’t give to charities (because you think the ones who do have already given to others and might be sick of it). Or you approach rich people, businessmen or corporates even if there is no common vision or shared values (because you think $1 million is loose change to them that they shouldn’t mind giving away).
  3. You make a poor case for giving that connects with no relevant emotions in the donor.
  4. When people do give, you never send out thank yous or report back on how their gifts have been used.
  5. Because the connection with your cause is weak, most of your donors only ever give you one gift.

The next time your board is giving you grief about “not wanting to beg”, show them this. I hope it will help you to explain the difference between fundraising and begging.

Let me know how you go! Good luck!

2 Comments

  1. Tony Mogavero

    Thanks for this article. I posted a gofundme on Facebook to raise money for my US citizenship application. I was shamed by my brother for appearing to beg for money. Your article is spot on what I wanted to convey to him.

    • june

      No worries Tony... sorry, it took me a while to respond but glad it was useful to you!

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