How to Raise $1 million without asking for money

Here’s a hint: It takes enthusiasm, patience, a great story and a bit of luck


“I don’t have time to volunteer, but I do have lots of money! Can I give you money?”


I’ve been thinking about this ACTUAL quote from a donor to a client for the past 2 days.


And it’s amazing every time I read it.


Not only does it prove a fundraising theory I’ve held for a dozen years or so, but also speaks to how many individuals out there in your own community are eager to help, if given the opportunity that aligns well with them.


A group I am working with is embarking on a very audacious fundraising goal that will be an incredible benefit to our community. They recently secured their very first significant gift and were over the moon about what that would allow them to develop, but along with the donation came something much more promising: an introduction to someone else.


You see – this initial donor wanted someone else to get in on the fun, and gave a bonus gift to the organization: an introduction to an individual who would have similar positive affinity for the project.


After an enthusiastic meeting with this new individual, the organization asked if this person would be a part of the committee to help fundraise and give their perspective on the project and program.


He said “no.” But turned around and wrote a 7-figure check.


In the immortal words of “Mr. Worldwide,” A.K.A, Pitbull, “Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice.”


First of all, I’m proud of myself for using a Pitbull quote toda. Secondly, it IS great advice. Sometimes to activate top donors, asking them for something OTHER than money is a great first step to building a better relationship.


Sometimes that relationship goes to warp speed.


Want to use the same three step process this organization used to secure such a gift? I’m glad you asked, ‘cause here it is:



1. Be an Enthusiastic Storyteller


No one wants to listen to a project vision without some sort of “oomph” behind the storytelling. How boring must it be for a donor to learn all about the statistical analysis of each line item in the projected budget. No. Stop it. Paint the picture on why your community would be better if your program was fully funded and if no money was an issue, what problem you would solve. The donor or supporter needs to be engaged enough to envision them being a part of the solution with the simple act of giving! And that, can’t be done without showing some authentic enthusiasm!


2. Have Patience


This group’s first gift came nearly 2 years after it was originally pitched to a donor. TWO. YEARS. It can take upwards of 36 months to take an individual who has no idea what your nonprofit does or that it even exists to a major / lead gift in a project. Thinking that your whole solicitation process has been a failure and giving up before enough time has passed is easy to do when the momentum has seemingly stopped. But remember: You can’t control when or how much people give. However, you can control how much field activity you and your organization dedicate to connecting with like-minded businesses and individuals. That groundwork is KEY to long term fundraising success.


3. Know That it Takes a Bit of Luck


If we are being honest, a lot of fundraising of this magnitude has a bit of luck involved. Being at the right place at the right time with the right project in front of the right person who is the right donor for the right opportunity takes some aligned stars. But in the world of philanthropy, you sometimes make your own luck by telling your story to as many people as possible and knowing that at some point, you’ll be able to make an impression to the type of person who can give a transformative gift to your nonprofit.


Now, I realize that not every person or organization will acquire a seven-figure gift for their project or campaigns – and we talk often here about not comparing yourself to others.


However, the PROCESS by which this group raised this unbelievable gift is the same that you can mimic.


Consistency. Enthusiastic. Patience. Luck.


Heck, we can all do at LEAST that.


And who knows, you might end up getting a supporter who blows you away unexpectedly with a gift that changes the course of your nonprofit for the better.


Go get ‘em gang!


-Patrick