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Want to be a Better Fundraiser? Understand Money

An image of a piggy bank, to illustrate a post on wealth. Understand money to be a better fundraiser.

Guess what? I have some great news: I can guarantee that you’re much closer to becoming a millionaire than you think — much closer, in fact, than a millionaire is to becoming a billionaire. And if you’re looking at your checking account balance and disagreeing, than I can guarantee something else: You don’t understand money.

I’m not trying to offend you; I’m just pointing out a problem that’s rampant in our industry: Many fundraisers lack a basic understanding not just of money, but of wealth and the wealthy. And it’s a problem that’s costing their nonprofits.

So, before you take the next webinar on how to manage your prospect database, or yet another course to learn about CRUTs, CRATs, CALCs, and CRAPs, focus on learning three other far more important things first:

  1. Storytelling (donors relate to stories)
  2. How to relate to different people (wealthy; poor; success-oriented; female vs male; etc.)
  3. Wealth. Learn to understand money. Where it comes from. Where it flows. How to make it work.

By the Numbers

I am always amazed by the lack of knowledge that most people (especially fundraisers!) have about money and wealth. At an AFP presentation in 2019, I asked my class a simple question:

How much (roughly) must you earn yearly to be in the nation’s top 1%? 

Here are some of the answers I received, out of a group of about 35 people:

  1. $50 Billion (clearly people do not know what a billion is)
  2. $100 Million (this was my highly educated attorney’s guess, too)
  3. $5 Billion
  4. $5 Million
  5. Half a Million (that’s $500,000, in case you do not know).

OK, I admit I’m being a little sarcastic by spelling out the fifth choice. But I have two very good reasons:

  1. It’s the correct answer (The threshold is $464,000 a year, to be exact; only one person guessed it); and
  2. Most people do not know the difference between a million and a billion.

A million seconds is equal to 11 days; a billion seconds is 32 years. This means us “average folks” are closer to millionaires than millionaires are closer to billionaires.

Chew on that for a bit before your next donor visit. Because if you understand wealth and money, you’ll raise more money — period.

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