Whoopi Goldberg: “A Little Freakdom is Not Bad”

During her recent appearance at the 2015 AFP International Fundraising Conference, Whoopi Goldberg shared her thoughts about fundraising and how to inspire people to donate. At one point, the comedienne summed up her thinking on the subject with the simple line:

A little freakdom is not bad.”

In other words, dare to be different. Don’t be afraid to be creative.

As an example, Goldberg talked about fundraising galas designed to attract wealthy supporters. She pointed out that to get support, you have to be willing to give. She went on to say that while chicken might be an inexpensive dinner choice, gala goers are tired of chicken. She advised:

Less chicken! … Give them something they’re not expecting.”

When cultivating the support of donors, it’s important to differentiate your charity from others, particularly those with a similar mission. Doing something simple, and still inexpensive, such as serving Chinese food at a gala, can show people that your charity is different. It will also help people remember the event and the charity. For frequent gala goers, an unexpected, fresh menu will be a welcome change, according to Goldberg.

Whoopi Goldberg by Archman8 via FlickrYou can apply the same idea to all aspects of your interaction with donors.

Tom Hopkins, the sales guru, says, “Be different, but believable.”

Michael Kaiser, the arts consultant and former head of Kennedy Center, says, “Make giving fun.”

What all three of these folks are saying is that it’s important to be creative when working with people in order to stand out, to engage, and to make sure that the engagement is enjoyable. Doing so will attract and retain more support.

Think of the ways you can surprise your prospects and donors in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be Chinese food at a gala, as Goldberg suggested. But, think of what you can do. For example, you can surprise donors with a thank-you phone call after receiving their donations. You can invite new donors above a certain level to join you for a special behind-the-scenes tour. What can you do for your donors to bring a smile to their faces? It doesn’t have to be expensive to leave a positive impression.

Reflecting further on gala events, Goldberg says:

I wish people at events would be asked, ‘Why are you here at this event?’”

When people attend an event, it’s a great opportunity to find out what motivated them to be there. It’s a chance to discover why they chose to support your organization. Is it because someone they know invited them? Is it because of one of your programs? Is it because of your overall mission? Is it because a loved one was served by your organization?

While it’s important to learn as much as you can about people when you see them, it’s always helpful to discover as much about donors as you can at anytime. Surveys are just one fantastic way to engage donors and acquire vital information about them. You can mail surveys, email a link to an online survey, or build pop-up surveys on your website. Look for ways to engage donors in a way that allows you to learn more about them.

Another facet to “freakdom” is passion. Goldberg notes that fundraising professionals need to let lose a bit and share their passion for the cause. She says:

What you’re producing is hope.… Donors look to you for how they can make a difference.”

Goldberg acknowledges that many donors have concerns about whether their donations will go where they are supposed to go. Trust is an important issue for donors. The more your charity demonstrates that it will use a donor’s contribution for the intended purpose and that that purpose is meaningful, the easier it will be to secure a donation.

Goldberg is an actress and comedienne. However, she has a firm grasp of the essential elements of nonprofit development work having represented and supported numerous charities over the years. We need to be creative, engaging, passionate, and trustworthy.

What creative things are you doing to engage prospects, share your passion, and demonstrate your organization’s trustworthiness?

That’s what Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Rosen say… What do you say?

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