Success is in relationships
By Patrick Belcher
When I begin my work with non-profits, I ask many questions. They cover donor lists, engagement activities, and explaining your mission. Regardless of the questions asked, at some point they share that they want help going after major funders in the area. More likely, I will immediately follow-up the statement with the question, “Who do you know?” Who at those organizations do you know, do you have a relationship with? After a few seconds of silence, they begin to speak about how worthy their cause is and these funders will want to support them.
In 2018, Americans gave more than $427 billion. Like it has been since the start of the GivingUSA report, more than 70 percent of that comes from individuals. Relationships matter. They matter in fundraising and in life. At the career center for Christopher Newport University, their slogan is, “You get jobs by talking to people.” According to a survey at the State University of New York, the No. 1 reason people gave to a charity was someone they knew asked them. The No. 2 reason is someone they knew was helped or impacted by the organization. Relationships are valuable.
In fundraising, there is a saying, “No mission, no money. No money, no mission.” When organizations begin to explain their worthy cause, they often start with the statistics and the need, rather than a heartfelt story. They forget the moment when they realized there was a need for their organization. It is the person, pet or event that let them know there was a need, and that people connect with. Through a good story, someone can identify a relationship with the protagonist. Whether they identify themselves, a family member or acquaintance with the subject of the story, a relationship can begin.
Relationships are much more valuable than a thumbs-up or a heart on social media. A relationship that involves a firm handshake or a genuine smile as you see each other in a store can truly accomplish more than any emoji can on social media. Relationships require work at any level and a desire to be in that relationship. As a member of the Rotary Club of Suffolk, I am humbled by each member’s commitment to “Service above self.” Our meetings are an experience all their own, but even outside the meetings, there is a sense of belonging. Whether it is that acknowledgement in a grocery store or local restaurant, or the opportunity to talk one-to-one at lunch or coffee. I personally have been honored when I have been invited to meet a Rotarian for lunch, and have been humbled when they have accepted my invitation. Through these relationships, I have discovered new opportunities, helped my son, and found alternate solutions in a time of need.
My father taught me that to surround yourself with the right people will make life better. Not easier, not smoother, just better. Relationships won’t take away the burden, the pain or the struggle. They will give you a shoulder to lean on, maybe someone to lighten the load, and someone to lend an ear and to encourage you.
Whether it is the challenges of fundraising, the struggles of everyday life, or finding new opportunities, success is in relationships. Take the time to engage someone through networking, coffee or lunch and find the value in a relationship.
Patrick Belcher works with local non-profit organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.