If You Want To Raise Funds, Think About People—Not Money

Don't lose six-figure funding due to "your strategy."

Brooklyn Atlantic Attic

Fundraising is a tough name for one of the most important, and sensitive, ways to engage people. Raising funds for your venture really isn't about the money. If you want to be successful in this money business, focus on people, not funds.

One of my greatest funders has been with me for the better part of 10 years. We started out slow at $5,000 and it grew to a consistent, annual six-figure support. Our first big jump in investment was when he funded two new hires, bringing them on board to join our team.

Next year, thinking he might want a creative change, I presented an aggressive marketing plan which could take UniversalGiving to exciting new levels of brand awareness.

He turned me down, not funding a dollar. "I don't like marketing, Pamela," he said. "It's not something I invest in because it's not easy to measure."

I should have known this due to our conversations, if I had taken more time.

But I did know that he loved supporting people. He would give money to pay for salaries, benefits, anything to keep good people. He was a serial—and concurrent — entrepreneur. So how well he understood that a team is essential to making your vision run!

Next year I presented two key personnel and how they would achieve our objectives, making an ask of six figures. I received the funding.

Key, however, is my commitment to this relationship with him over those years. Whether he funded me or not, I came to him for advice, insight, and engagement. I kept the relationship and truly valued the person. He was always available to provide wisdom, connections, introductions, encouragement, and ideas. And he was so very kind that he would take the time even if he wasn't invested.

So find out what interests your donors and investors, and stick with that long-term relationship. Allow the dynamic to move and change. You might keep in touch with someone for 10 years and they might fund you on and off for six. That's a good record!

Cultivate the relationship, keep the sincerity, and always as a cardinal rule, express appreciation for their involvement, no matter what form they choose.

Read more about Getting Funded

[Image: Flickr user Barry Yanowitz]

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  • Stanley bray

    Very inspiring article. I serve on a board that is constantly discussing funding issues with potential vendors. Thank you for reminding of the people-focus, and not the money.

  • pamelahawley

    Dear Stanley, I am glad it is so helpful. As we focus on the true motive
    of listening and helping others, even if they are giving us, owe us,
    money, we can't go wrong.  That doesn't, however, mean in your
    situation that you don't have to take a strong stance.  Common
    consideration for others that goes hand-in-hand with a firm commitment to
    principle are necessary.  It's right to expect those funds that you are
    dealing with to come in a timely manner.   

    I know you haven't asked, but what might be the real root of the
    challenge here...?   it may not be about money. Is it timing for them?
    Is it particular to person, ie the CEO of the company would want to get the funds to you on time, but they don't have a good representative in place?  

    Or perhaps they are used to a  norm of being hassled for their bills.
    You could break that norm.   Having a very calm, open conversation about
    what is occurring, and asking questions rather than making demands,
    could get to the real issue.   They would know you cared. And then that
    makes them start caring. 

    As we respect others, we attain greater respect for ourselves.  When
    that happens, I believe and hope they would want to get the money to you
    on time.   They being to care about  your company and see you as more
    than someone coming after them for the bills.

    It takes more time at the beginning to establish and maintain this
    rapport.  But I have found I would rather have these types of
    conversations that build people up, instead of harassing conversations
    about bills.   It seems to me you could change an industry practice here
    of what is considered the "norm."  


    Pamela Hawley

    Founder and CEO






    Living and Giving blog