They’re not invisible, so why treat them as though they are




There’s a growing number of homeless people all around us, it doesn’t matter what country, or city we are in; homelessness is everywhere.


Why then do people treat as though they’re invisible? Homelessness affects people from almost every walk of life; the recent economic crisis has seen families who were prospering end up losing their homes and resorting to living on welfare, on the street or in shelters.


Here’s an exercise we should all undertake; next time you walk down the street acknowledge someone who is living on the street; a simple smile will do, if you have the time, stop and say hello. For some a simple hello will make their day, almost as much as that spare change you have in your pocket will help them with a meal.


Not only will the person you acknowledge feel better, but it’s likely to have a positive impact on you as well.


The other side of this is to take a look at the reaction you get from others when they see you talking to someone less fortunate. It’s surprising how many people look down their noses when they see you engaging in conversation.


How do I know this? I’ve met several homeless people over the years, mostly they’ve been a good bunch of people, some have been a little abrasive, but perhaps this is because they’re not used to us ‘seeing them’.


When you get someone who wants, or maybe needs to talk; you could be surprised by the level and intellect of the conversation, there’s some gems of stories out there just waiting for someone to hear them.


There’s Missions and Shelters throughout the world where people can gain shelter, a cuppa and a bed for the night; but how many of these people being ‘helped’ in this way are also in need of a friendly smile, a wave, a quick hello, or a quick chat? I’d say many are.


Say hi, it’s warming to those you say it too.


If you can, head to your local Mission or Shelter and offer a hand, if you don’t have the time; how about making a regular financial pledge.


Please remember, no one is invisible; it’s the people like you and I who are blind to others around us.


Can we do it here – “Homeless write to put life in context”

 I was homeless; ‘the look’ judged me worthless



© Taylor Wilkins |


Know who gives and why



Remembering that you’re selling a ‘concept’ to people – support for your organisation – you need to know who and where your supporters are, what they’re interested/passionate about….. you need to be able to tell stories about the work of your organisation that will be heard, that will inspire people to help.

Knowing who and where your supporters (current and potential) are, and what triggers them will make it easier for you to retain and gain support through targeted approaches.

Using a scatter gun, hit and miss approach will gain some support, but not nearly as much as a well planned and targeted approach.

Do you know where you main supporter base is? Is it in your local neighbourhood or further afield? Do your supporters have common interests in the community? Do they play sport, attend stage shows? Do they have school aged children?

All of these questions should be asked of yourself and your supporters. With the answers to these and any number of other questions you will have a ‘supporter profile’ and will also open other avenues for you to approach them and others like them.

If your supporter is male, plays golf, works in your local area and has school aged children you have the potential to be able to approach others just like this through – the golf club, the school and local business groups.

If your supporter is local and belongs to a business group, perhaps you could approach the group and ask if you could speak to their members about the work of your organisation. The same could be possible with the golf club, which could even open the doors to a charity golf tournament.

Just like any other market – your supporter base will change, and you will need to know what’s changing and why. By having an understanding of your ‘core’ supporter you’ll be in a better position to alter your appeals according to market changes.


Not-for-profit – Giving Survey Results

Fundraising – Knowing your donor

What are your plans for 2011?



Are you supported by your board and staff?


How many in your organisation support the work you do? Do they show it, are they ambassadors, do they trumpet the work being done?

I’ve started thinking about this after visiting a few FaceBook pages of community, non-profit organisations and looking through their ‘friends’ I see that only a small handful of staff, and board members (also users of FaceBook) are ‘friends’. 

Why is this? Don’t they want to be seen to be associated, or has the organisation not let them know about their online presence? 

The best way any organisation, or business, can gain further support is through encouraging staff to show their support – to get them to truly buy-in to what the organisation is doing. 

An organisation can prosper and grow through the support it has in the community; and yes, having supporters talk about the work undertake in great in getting their friends to also come on board. But another group that should be nurtured and encouraged to be ‘ambassadors are the people working for the organisation – they should be encouraged to show that they are proud to be part of it, to take every opportunity to talk about it; and are excited about being part of it. 

We know that in business staff can seem disinterested, spending most of their time counting down the hours until their day finishes; only working from week to week, passing the time of day. 

Have you considered how you can help engage your staff, how to manage them and get them on board; to be part of the organisation? 

This isn’t always possible, and unless you can get their ‘buy in’ early and stop negative attitudes setting in the early days you will have almost no chance to ‘mould them’. 

There will be some staff that will never change; you need to look for ways to help them see for themselves that perhaps the work they are doing is “perhaps not best suited to them”; that perhaps they need to “look for something more to their liking”. 

Normally though those working in the charity, non-profit sector are drawn to it for reasons often only known to themselves, or perhaps through personal motivation (the organisation may have helped them, their family or friend); or perhaps they have simply had the ‘calling’ to help others. 

Whether staff (and board members) are working with you for aulturistic reasons or not, there should be some encouragement to get them to fully support the work being undertaken, to show they ‘believe’ in what’s being done, that they’re happy to share the work being done with their friends and family – both on and offline. 

It’s important for any organisation to ensure they have ambassadors, people engaged who support them and who will trumpet about the work being done at every opportunity (staff).



© Melinda Nagy |



What’s on your ‘Wish List’



All too often charities and others working in the community don’t appear to have a clear picture of what they want support for; sure they know and can explain they need support to keep the organisation going and enable it to function in the delivery of its services. But, when asking for support they could do a lot better if they had a “Wish List”.

When approaching business or the public for support asking for funds for capital xxx can often be met with a resounding no. If on the other hand an organisation can say they need x amount of dollars for y materials, equipment or a specific project they are often received in a more favourable light.

If you have a project you’re undertaking, where possible break the project down into ‘parts’ – if an organisation is needing funding to take a group of children away on a trip of a lifetime; show the total cost per child, further broken down into the travel costs, accommodation costs, food costs etc – you will be able to ask people to support one child either in total, or for their travel, accommodation or food costs.

Doing it this way will enable those who may only be able make a smaller contribution do so. They won’t feel that you’re doing something they have no way of helping with.

Any project you’re undertaken can be broken down, build your “wish list” have it at hand when making those calls, include it in your appeal material, show it on your website – and ask, ask ask for help based on a smaller amount.

Do you use a wish or project list when making appeals for support? What do you do that works for you?



© Judwick |


What are you expecting in 2011



We all know that the last couple of years has been hard with the economy taking a roller coaster ride, not only have business suffered, people lost jobs; but the charity sector has also taken a hit.

Some organisations have had to reduce their level of service, cut back on overheads and reduced staffing levels; they haven’t been immune to the financial headaches suffered by others in the community.

There have been others in the non-profit sector who have gained support, mostly these have been organisations offering support in areas that provide shelter, food and clothing – human needs groups.

Others haven’t been so fortunate, but with a new year comes new opportunities; and it’s now that plans should have been dusted off, signed off and action started to get the funding needed to provide the services your organisation provides.

Are you expecting the same level of support or less this year? What can you do to change this?

There’s been some talk that the level of giving in the lead up to Christmas and New Year has been up; which is typical – the spirit of giving always seems to come at that time of year. But, we need to maintain the level of giving.

In the coming year it would pay to look at your structure, what areas can you adapt to make the most use of the resources you have? Also, it may pay to be more open with your supporters so that they have a clear picture of where their contributions are going. Being an open book with your supporters will in the long run add value, it will help them to make the decision to continue (and hopefully increase) their support.

Set yourself some targets, not just of the level of support you need, but also the number of supporters you will gain in a certain timeframe; and how you will connect with them.

You now have more resources at your fingertips to connect with supporters, sure, your typical letters, emails, faxes will remain – but, remember to make use of social media to connect. If you’re not using, or only using social media sporadically to connect, then up it’s usage; add it to your plan. When your supporters can see you actively engaged, asking and answering questions as well as talking about the work you do; will lift your profile and in time will aid you in your fundraising, supporter needs.

Don’t stop and dwell too much on what has been, the lessening of support; instead, stop, take a breath and look at the possibilities in front of you.


See also,

Individual Philanthropy: Looking Back And Forging Ahead To 2011

5 Ways Charities Will Be Using Social Media In 2011

Seth Godin on Innovation, Failure and Why Non-profits Should Stop Operating like Businesses

Philanthropy’s 10 Favorite Buzzwords of the Decade Show How Nonprofits Are Changing



It’s not you they’re turning down

That constant stream of people saying “no” when you’re looking for support can really take its toll on a fundraiser. It’s hard to separate that it’s the ‘cause’ they’re saying “no” to and not you as an individual.

When working with telephone fundraisers I used to suggest they celebrate each “no” they got, as it was getting them closer the “YES”.

If you’re getting lots of “No’s” it could be that they don’t know your organisation, or that the person you’re talking to has other commitments – neither of these reasons for them not giving – for them not saying “Yes” has anything to do with you as a person. It’s all about the information they are being given, it’s about your organisation they may have questions about – and nothing about you.

In order to get the best out of your ‘pitch’ for support, you need to go into the process full prepared; knowing:

  • Why you’re making the approach
  • Who benefits
  • What it costs to run the programme/service you provide
  • How their contribution will help make a difference

If you go into a fundraising pitch without all the necessary information, without the ability to answer the questions; you’re not likely to get many people saying “yes”.

When you get a “no” ask why? By asking you will be able to find out the real reason people aren’t supporting. Perhaps it’s the wrong time of the year, the cause (as explained) hasn’t ‘grabbed’ them, maybe it’s simply the wrong time to be asking – that time of day. I doubt very much anyone will tell you “I didn’t like you” or “I won’t help because of you” – it will always because of something external. 

Whatever it is, make use of the feedback you get for the reason they’re not supporting help build a stronger case with your next call. 

The next time you pick up the phone, write a letter or complete an application form, make sure you’re giving all the possible information; and if you get a rejection – take it on the chin; it’s not you they’re saying no to – it’s the cause, the organisation or simply that they need more information to make an informed decision to support. 


© Charles Shapiro |


Fundraising – Know Your Donor


To quote from “Understanding Fundraising” (Michael Norton, HarperCollins, 2007) …

Fundraising is about selling people the idea that something can be done, and then creating a partnership in which they (the donor) provide the means and you (the activist) do all the work to make things happen.

How many people who seek funding, whether for the organisation they’re employed by, or those who have a cause close to their heart they want to gain further support for go into the task without being prepared?

What you’re aiming to do (please don’t use “trying” – it’s too loose) is to gain support for your organisation, so know what your needs are, know what your potential supporter needs to know to make an informed decision, and you simply must know who benefits and how they benefit.

All too often I’ve heard fundraiser talk about what the organisation needs in the way of money, but they’re not up to the play when it comes to know who will benefit, nor do they know anything about who their potential donor is.

Do you know who really benefits from the work of your organisation? their family, other students at their school, work colleagues; the list of wider benefit goes on. Somewhere among your list of people who benefit, from the immediate, to those that are 6 degrees separated.

Your donor base needs sorting, you need to know things about them; such as:

Where do they live?

Where do they work?

What are their interests?

What age are they?

Every bit of information you have about your current donor, supporter, will help you tap into your potential donor easier. Your current donors will know people that mirror themselves, use (but don’t abuse) your current donor to ‘introduce’ you to new donors.

Sure you can cast the net wide, make more telephone calls, send out more envelopes/letters/emails or knock on more doors; but wouldn’t it be more effective to know who and where your donors are?

Every extra cent you spend contacting your donor, the less you have to spend on the core activity of your organisation.

Take some time out to research your donor, even hold some informal get togethers of donors to get more information from them; perhaps even asking them to help you connect with their friends, family and colleagues that have a similar ‘make-up’.

Whatever, remember:

Fundraising is about selling people the idea that something can be done, and then creating a partnership in which they (the donor) provide the means and you (the activist) do all the work to make things happen.

So, know and your target donor, to enable partnerships to be created, allowing you to get on with the work to make things happen.



© Melissa Schalke |

What are your plans for 2011


I recently wrote What are your plans for 2011 for SocializeYourCause which was more about what plans charities and non-profits could be doing to help them plan for 2011. Here, let’s look at what we as individuals are planning, or could do this year to help others in the community.

There’s many options for us when it comes to charity giving, in New Zealand alone we have over 25,000 registered charities we could support; this doesn’t count the number of community organisations not registered with the Charities Commission that could do with our support. But, being Kiwis we are generous and support many activities, people and organisations in the community.

So, where do we begin when looking at who, what and when to support? I guess one of the things we could do is look at why we support

Perhaps we should look at Not-for-profit – Giving Survey Results and how we handle charity requests both of which give an insight into what and why we support.

If you’re working with/for a non-profit, it’s important to have your plans layed out – spend the time, see it as an investment.

For those in the community that support non-profits, it’s not a bad idea to spend sometime thinking about your contributions, who and what you give to, the frequency, the amount or time given; are there things you could do differently?

There have been stories over the years of families who sit down, and as a group decide what non-profit/s they will support, how they will do it. Some opt to give any money they would spend as a family on a holiday to a cause in their local community; others will put any money normally spent on children’s birthday parties to causes that benefit children.

No matter what or how you’re able to give – as part of your planning for the year ahead, grab a pad and pen and note what you’re wanting to achieve through your charitable giving.

We plan almost everything in our lives, so why not our giving?

Who or what will you support in 2011?

How will you support them?

What if anything are your expectations in return for the support you give?

As a company will you involve your staff in the decision making of what causes/s the company will support?

Can you introduce the cause/s you support to others in your family, circle of friends, business or community associations?

All these and more questions will help you with your charity giving plans for the coming year … on, pick up that pen and paper and start your planning now!

© Mikko Pitkänen / Studio Foxy |