Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Expectation and entitlement in fundraising

JaneAuthor: Jane Symonds

I don't mean to sound like a politician, but... can we talk about entitlement?

Let me explain by sharing two things that came up at this morning's seminar on Understanding Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs), presented by Philanthropy Australia in Brisbane.

The first of these was an experience shared by a PAF trustee in which a charity representative approached her a little aggressively about supporting their cause, and was less than gracious when they received a "no" (which, for the record, was accompanied by some suggestions for alternative funding avenues).

The second was a reference to the cultural differences between Australia and the United States, where it's standard practice for financial advisors to speak about philanthropy as part of their clients' portfolios.

America's philanthropic culture means that there's almost an expectation that those who can give, not only should but will.

Advocates of growing philanthropy in Australia (and in the nonprofit sector, who isn't?) would probably agree that that's a positive thing.

However, as my stomach sank listening to the trustee's experience, it became clear to me that there's a big difference between expecting people to give, in a general sense, and expecting people to give to a specific cause or project.

This is where entitlement raises its ugly head, and links back to one of my favourite topics: that of balancing emotion and reason.

As fundraisers we always need to remember that just because we have identified a great need, no particular funder is obliged to contribute. Our organisation is not entitled to any particular funding, and funders deserve to have their preferences and wishes respected.

It's our job to ensure we do our research and take the right project, at the right time, to a funder who we have real reason to believe will be interested in contributing.

When we make informed, prepared and respectful approaches, we have the best chance of moving the relationship forward and receiving support.

Of course, it goes without saying that there are always going to be knockbacks, and we should be prepared to accept these graciously and move on.

It's worth remembering, as was also pointed out in this morning's seminar, that just because a funder chooses not to support your organisation or project, there's nothing to stop them making a recommendation on your behalf to someone else (provided you've left a good impression!).