The last few years have been tough for many people and many nonprofit organizations. Unemployment has been high and a lot of people have been looking for work, and many nonprofit organizations have been hurting looking for support for their programs. Times have changed, and the way we need to do things has changed too. In many ways, jobseekers and nonprofits are very similar. My goal here is to provide some advice that will make you more successful in either case.
1 Start looking before you need to. Many companies out there in the real world are not hiring people who are unemployed and need jobs. Some have even advertised that the unemployed need not apply. They want to hire someone who is already working. In the same vein, many donors do not want to give their money to organizations that desperately need money to continue their programs. When an organization needs money to pay its bills month to month, donors feel that it is not running an effective operation. Looking for money when you need it the most will put more pressure on you, and many times, potential donors can sense the desperation.
2. Stop doing things the way you did a decade ago. Years ago, when you were looking for a job, you searched the want ads in the paper, but when the internet became part of the culture, you looked on websites like Jobdango, Craigslist, and Monster and applied online. Now, the majority of jobs are not found or filled that way. Years ago, organizations sent out mass mailings or phoned potential donors asking for support, but those methods are not as effective now. Online donations are commonly used, but being a passive method of raising money, an organization has to drive traffic to its website. Email campaigns and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest help bring potential supporters your website, but it takes a good story and an easy to use donation page to get the donor to give.
3. Network effectively. When you are looking for work, let your friends and family know you are looking. Many, if not most, will ask around to see if there are any openings available and will let you know if they learn of anything. If you are looking for support for your organization, let people know and ask them if they know anyone who would be interested in what your mission is. The odds are good that they know someone in their circle of friends that may be passionate, or at least interested in learning what you do. Leave no stone unturned.
4. Go to events and meet people. When you are looking for a job, it is a great idea to get out and talk to people at events around town, whether it is networking events, job fairs, or alumni groups. You walk up to a new person, introduce yourself, exchange business cards and give a short “elevator speech”. When you are looking for new supporters, you can go to events held by the local chamber of commerce, social outings like the theater or opera where more successful individuals might go, or even coffee hour after Sunday’s church service. Practice a short “elevator speech” to introduce people to your organization’s mission so they can learn a little bit about what your programs do. When you network, remember to listen more than you talk so you can learn more about the other person’s interests to see if they may be a good fit as a supporter. Whether you are a job seeker or a support seeker, don’t ask them for a jog or ask for support there. If you do, they will lose your business card very quickly. Ask them to consider getting together for a later conversation over coffee, lunch, or a drink at a later date instead. Ask them what you might be able to do for them instead of what they can do for you.
5. When you get together for a second meeting, be prepared. Think of some open ended questions to ask them about what they do, and what they like to do. If you are seeking employment, ask them about the company they work for and why they like to work there. If you are seeking support for your organization, ask them about their interests and what kind of issues they like to support. Tell them about what your organization does and how it makes you feel working to support the mission of the organization. Invite them to come by and see what the organization does for the community and those it serves. Engage them so they can learn more so you can gauge their interest. Talk about the things your organization does well and how it benefits the community. When the time is right for you and them, then you can start asking for gifts.
It is important not to come on too strong. Be patient and be confident. The more at ease you are with yourself, the more success you will have. Finding a job or finding support for your cause takes time. Consider these things and take them to heart. You will end up much better off in the long run.