What does it mean to say that real fundraising is about building long-term partnership?
It means that some of the most important meetings you have with long-term funders are the ones that cover topics that don’t require their funding support:
The amazing, fully funded project that you’re just kicking off with a few other partners.
The great piece of work that you both know is outside of their formal strategy that you’re really excited about.
The new initiative where you’d value their experience and input.
Some funders are so used to – and so tired of – being pitched constantly that they end up behaving protectively, as if the only thought running through their head is, “how many times will I have to say ‘no’ in this meeting?” I’ve had funders start sentence after sentence with, “we’re not doing any new funding this cycle” long before I’ve asked for anything. There’s no hope of building a relationship if someone has their gloves up protecting themselves from an onslaught of asks.
Fundraisers can be part of the problem, acting as if that every meeting should include a financial ask, and fearing that they’ve made a mistake if they don’t ask for money each time.
Every meeting should help deepen the relationship and, even better, should give everyone around the table the chance to contribute meaningfully to making positive change happen. Often that’s not about money.
Taking a stance that you’re not constantly, desperately on the lookout for funding is one of the best ways to allow the partners you hope to work with to put down their gloves and actually listen.