Fundraising lesson learned at a lemonade stand

lemonade1Last week I was walking our dog, Betrys, when I came across a lemonade stand in my neighborhood. A mom was helping her two young sons set-up as I approached. It was in that moment that the 3-year-old boy learned a valuable lesson that every fundraising professional learns sooner or later in their career. So, I decided to take a minute to blog about it this morning.
As I approached, we exchanged pleasantries and I complimented the boys on how nicely their roadside stand was coming together. Without missing a beat, the 3-year-old asked me if I wanted to buy a refreshing drink.
Unfortunately, I had left my wallet at home and I explained that I didn’t have any money to make a purchase. I wished them lots of luck and continued walking the dog.
As the dog and I continued on our way, I heard the youngest boy in a distressed voice ask his mother:

“Why didn’t the man stop and buy our lemonade?”

Of course, his mom had to explain in “kid terms” what just happened:

  • It takes money to make a purchase
  • I didn’t have any money
  • Not everyone will want to buy lemonade that day for reasons including lack of funds or in some instances not having a taste for what they were selling

Wiser words have never been spoken, and that boy just learned something that every fundraising professional eventually learns if they practice their craft for long enough.
The fundraising lessons are layered:

  • Not everyone will have the financial means to support your non-profit when you ask, but no doesn’t necessarily mean “never” . . . it might just mean “not now
  • Just because someone has the financial means to make a donation, doesn’t mean they will be inspired by your mission or case
  • Not everyone is going to donate and that is OK … it isn’t our job to beat the money out of them

lemonade2Our job as fundraisers is to understand the rules of engagement when it comes to fundraising:

  1. We need to have a good case for support
  2. We need to identify people who care about that case
  3. We need to develop many channels for people to give because not every giving opportunity will be convenient or desirable to every donor
  4. We need to tell our story well — with emotion and passion
  5. We need to not let the donor who takes a pass on buying our “lemonade” bum us out and impact the next opportunity

What other lessons do you think can be drawn from this lemonade stand experience? How does your agency translate those lessons into fundraising practices? How do you infuse these things into your organizational culture and pass them down from fundraising professional to fundraising professional?
Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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