Nonprofits: For the Love of All that is Good, Don’t Look Foolish!

Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to sit on a review panel for a mid-sized company that was looking to donate a significant amount of money to a select group of nonprofits. The organizations in contention had been handpicked by the company. Half of the organizations had a history of working with the company; the other half had been selected because their mission was near and dear to someone in the company’s leadership.

All of the organizations were asked to submit a brief document where they had a chance to tell their story. Additionally, they were asked to include a number of attachments. I reviewed the “Request for Stories” and it seemed pretty straightforward. In preparation for reviewing the applications, I sat in on the optional information session that the organizations were invited to participate in beforehand. A little more than half of the organizations sent representation.

I was astounded by the questions. Most of the nonprofit organizations clearly hadn’t read the “Request for Stories.” Their questions were often elementary – and repetitive from the info that they already had in hand. I was actually embarrassed for them. I wanted to say, “You’re making yourselves look foolish!”

In my previous work experience, I’ve run a nonprofit organization and I’ve raised money. I’ve written proposals, and I’ve gone to Q&A sessions and I’ve met with numerous people from the philanthropic community. I was stretched thin, working 75+ hours per week. I didn’t have any extra time. But I always made time to do my research and prepare ahead of time. I never wanted to appear unprofessional in front of a funder who was going to decide whether or not we were going to get money, regardless of the amount.

It is something that I would encourage all nonprofit fundraisers to do. I know you don’t have time, but make the time. Don’t look like a fool when money is on the line.

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