Dear (potential) donor,
Please, please, be careful and clear with your intentions, with your time, and with our time. I know you don’t want any special treatment, and I know you don’t want different rules to apply to you…but they do. (Nonprofit) folks will always take that extra, exploratory meeting with you, that broad-ranging conversation to better understand the sector, the work they’re doing, all the little intricacies that are their special sauce. They’ll do it because they honestly want to share with you, and they’ll do it because it’s very difficult to tell the difference between a casual conversation and an active exploration of a partnership that leads to a funding decision.
(Worse than loose exploration, please, please, please, don’t make commitments that you cannot or will not keep. There are few things more debilitating than that.)
It’s true, it really is their job – the nonprofit’s – to draw the line, to be clear, to ask you the tough questions. But it’s a hard thing to do, and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they’ll talk and talk and talk, keeping that distant hope alive that sometime soon you’ll see that glimmer of what you’re looking for and decide to write a big check. No, that’s not the only thing they see when they see you coming, but it is certainly part of what they see, and they’re going to give you more leeway than they would give to someone else.
So, please, explore, talk, brainstorm, ask questions, give advice, but also insist on clarity if they’re not being clear. If you know you’re not planning to fund them, but the conversations are going great, you have a chance to speak up, to level set, to explain where things are and explain why you’re talking – because there are many ways to partner, and funding is just one of them.
You’ll be doing yourself and them a great service by speaking up.
Very truly yours,
[coming tomorrow: Dear Nonprofit]