: Successful Nonprofits : Stop leaving donor dollars on the table!

Increase Your Donor’s Check from $1,000 to $100,000

Challenge the Fundraising Status Quo with Sherry Quam Taylor

Increase Your Donor’s Check from $1,000 to $100,000

Challenge the Fundraising Status Quo with Sherry Quam Taylor

by GoldenburgGroup

Sherry Quam Taylor says it’s time to push against common fundraising misconceptions and start telling donors what your nonprofit really needs! budget

  • Do your staff need raises? Tell your donor! 
  • Do you need a technology upgrade? Tell your donor! 
  • Do you need to funnel a little extra money into fundraising this year? Tell your donor!

Listen in on our conversation with Sherry to learn how actually sharing the nitty-gritty of what you need can help your nonprofit double or even triple its incoming donations. Get tips for building your needs-based budget and how to confidently share it with your donors so that you don’t leave any money sitting on the table!

Listen to the Episode Here!


Quam Taylor’s Website

Ask Dolph Episode


(1:18) What a needs-based budget is and why you need one

(9:37) Sherry’s rule of thumb about where your money should be coming from and how to get it

(21:04) Budgeting your time for fundraising

(23:11) Your board’s role in fundraising

(27:31) Give your donors the opportunity to invest in a great mission 

(34:46) Becoming a donor yourself

(37:11) What to look for in your next coach


Dolph Goldenburg (00:00):

Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. I’m your host, Dolph Goldenburg. The constant, looming question on everyone’s mind who is an executive director, a development director, a board chair, is this: how do we get money? There are tons of tips and advice out there. Lots of blogs. Lots of podcasts. But something that I don’t usually run across in these blogs and podcasts of the top 10 fundraising strategies is the lesson to just use your budget. So let’ cue today’s guest, Sherry Quam Taylor, who focuses on helping nonprofits fundraise through individual donations. Not only does she help her clients become super comfortable with the dreaded ask, but she also helps them create a needs based budget that they can use when making solicitations. And it’s this needs based budget and how it can help you fundraise that we’re going to be discussing with Sherry today. So please join me in welcoming Sherry to the podcast. Hey, Sherry, welcome to the podcast.

Sherry Quam Taylor (01:10):

Hey Dolph, how are you today?

Dolph Goldenburg (01:12):

Gosh, I’m having a great day. Are you?

Sherry Quam Taylor (01:14):

Yes, so far so good. No complaints.

Dolph Goldenburg (01:18):

Now, can you help us understand what a needs-based budget is? But I’m going to ask that you do it using a real-life story.

Sherry Quam Taylor (01:26):

Yes. So I have a little bit of a trick question I ask everybody when either I have a first conversation with them or I start working with them. And here’s the question, I’m giving you the scoop today of my secret question: What do you need raise this year? And people will say, “You mean my budget?” Sure. Yeah. Let’s start there. I’ll tell you this story about my client, Sandy. She said the same thing. So typically how people respond to that question is, “Well, last year we raised $900,000. So we’d love to do $950,000.” In essence, the budget is a little bit more than last year. That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking: what do you need?

Sherry Quam Taylor (02:13):

Sandy remembered my saying something about being confident when sitting down and asking donors for money, but said she just was not exactly sure what that looks like. She asked, “When I sit down with a donor, what do I ask them? What do I share with them? What if they ask me these scary questions?” And so we talked a little bit about what her budget was and, really, I led her to what she needs to be raising toward. And so, Dolph, I am a strong believer that your budget, that number that a board approves, and the need, the number you should be raising toward, are two totally different things. And so my client, Sandy, came to realize that setting a budget based on just a little bit more than last year actually was keeping her from growing.

Sherry Quam Taylor (03:10):

But when she put a real needs-based budget in place, meaning including all those things you’re a little afraid about putting in the budget or maybe think you can’t put in there. Put them in the budget and see the number. And then put your reserve as a line item if you have it. Because here’s the game changer and here’s how Sandy used this to grow her organization and ultimately position her really well right now in early 2020: When you sit down with an individual donor and they say, “So what do you need?” The donor can hear you say, “Well, you know, we made $500 K last year. And so we hope to do $550 K.” Versus, “Thank you so much for asking me that. We have a $600,000 need this year. Could I share with you what that looks like?”

Sherry Quam Taylor (04:03):

That is a game changer when you’re sitting down at the solicitation table. And so specifically with Sandy, she learned how to share what the organization’s need was as opposed to that squeaked-by budget. And so she took my 90 day program in 2019. And we applied that to her annual gala. It was a small event; it only ever brought in about $75,000. But a couple hundred people were coming. Challenge was, she knew people were coming and not giving their best gift. And I asked her, “Do they understand what you need?” So, long story short, she was able to move those donors who were event donors into annual fund donors by bringing those meetings and those pre-solicitations out in front of the event and actually share with them what her need was. And their minds were blown. They had no idea what her organization needed. And so she tripled her revenue at that event. And she had just as much money going in to the event as she had ever raised, all because she learned how to share what the organization needed versus that squeak-by budget that we so often tend to do.

Dolph Goldenburg (05:29):

I want us to unpack that, but before we do, I noticed that you and I are really similar in this respect. I say this to clients all the time, although I say this typically around strategic planning. But when I’m talking to a prospective client and they only want to do 5% better next year and 5% more the year after that, I say I am not your person because I don’t want to be working with organizations that are only getting 5% better year after year after year. I was recently working with an organization around strategic planning and we were putting together their multi-year budget projections for years two, three, four and so on. I noticed that staff in the organization were typically making $15,000 to $20,000 less than they would be at other organizations. And so I raised that as an issue. And I said we should really include sizable, like &7,500; $8,000; $10,000 salary increases in years two and three for your staff. And I got this pushback of, “Well, how are we ever going to do that?” I was said, “Well, if you don’t put it in there, you’re never going to figure out how to do it.”

Sherry Quam Taylor (06:40):

You nailed it. And so I am a huge believer in creating a real budget. And I should also add, I’m not just talking expense. You gave a perfect example. You have to put those ideal salaries in. That’s what you need. You want to keep those people. They’re doing a great job. If you do not put that in the budget and you do not know the real number you need to be raising toward, how would you put together a development plan to actually hit that number then? And so I totally agree with you. I ran the numbers last year of all my clients in 2019. This is a wild statistic and I was actually a little surprised by it: 55% of the leaders in the nonprofits who came to me were not taking their full board-approved salaries.

Dolph Goldenburg (07:24):

55% were not taking their full salary!? And I just have to reflect last year, the economy was booming. If that’s what you’re doing in a great economy, what are you going to do in this economy?

Sherry Quam Taylor (07:36):

I hear you when you say, “Oh, but wait, we can’t put that in the budget. We’re not bringing that in.” What I’m saying is: Your budget is your plan. It directs your activities. It directs the time you’re putting into, both income and expenses, every single month. So you’ve got to get it on paper and in the budget if you’re going to raise that number. I’ll always ask this question: what are you not putting in your budget that actually might be keeping you from growing? And here we go back to the age old you’ve to spend money to make money. You know, I hate that too, for my own business. But you have to invest in your organization to grow your programs, grow your admin, and your fundraising.

Sherry Quam Taylor (08:25):

And so, oftentimes, things like making sure there is strong technology integrated into what you’re doing so that it’s easy for a donor to give. Did you design your brand and logo and collateral 15 years ago when a volunteer did it and now it’s not relevant? Are there financial processes you’ve been having a volunteer do for years and maybe you do need to pay somebody to do it? So all of these things feel like that dreaded “overhead” word. But to be honest, these are the types of things organizations must invest in to grow and bring in more money and grow your programs. It’s a game changer.

Dolph Goldenburg (09:08):

It really is. So you said you’ve got to include all of that in the budget. You and I are on the same page on that. And if you don’t know you need it, you can’t explain your need to a donor or funder as to why you need to increase everybody’s salary by $10,000 each year for the next two years. You can’t explain it. But what your system does is help people figure out how to communicate and explain that to donors and funders. Let’s unpack that.

Sherry Quam Taylor (09:37):

So I want to equip every executive director and development director, with the tools to have these investment level conversations. So for context, most of my work surrounds helping organizations’ top 30 donors yield about 50% to 75% of their revenue. And if I have my way, I want those also to be single source decision makers. I want them to be individuals or private family foundations or owners of private businesses so that we have access to those people. We can call them up and we can get a decision. And so when we think about focusing on those types of relationships and asks, those are investment level conversations. That is you sitting down, business person to business person, and talking through what your plans are and what are you doing this year so that you can do this next year and this in 5 years.

Sherry Quam Taylor (10:36):

What do you do? Why are you the experts? And, above all, why should this person give to you? And so many times I find a lot of people who come to me are really avoiding the ask or that scary thought of sitting down with somebody because they don’t truly know what that investment level conversation looks like and whether or not people really want to know all these details about scaling the organization. The answer to the later question is, “Yes.” If this is somebody who can literally write you a $25,000 check, I want you to show them that that gift was worthy of them investing and what you’re going to do with the funds and to really know how you’re going to use it. And I want you to have a business person to business person conversation about that investment they’re making.

Dolph Goldenburg (11:32):

When I’ve been an executive director or development director, I’ve often viewed that as free consulting. So if I sit down with someone who has built a business that today as $25 million a year of revenue, and I’m saying, “Hey, what do you think about X, Y, Z?” They’re going to give me their honest opinion. And I know it’s going to be their honest opinion. A lot of times for us EDs is people don’t tell us the truth. A lot of people tell us what they think we want to hear, but the person that built a $25 million a year business, who might give you $25,000 is going to tell you the truth.

Sherry Quam Taylor (12:09):

Yes. I always say, if we think of that business person as exactly what you just said, someone who has scaled a $25 million business, then they probably have sat and asked for investments themselves, right? They’re leaders in their community. They’re running teams, they’re scaling, they’re taking risks. Listen to what they value about the conversation. I do really feel like they value having that peer-to-peer relationship with you. If they’re really digging into the numbers, don’t be afraid by that. That’s what they value. They want to know how you’re going to scale. They want to know how you’re funded. They want to know what you really need. And so be open to that. It’s really not as scary as most people think once you have the right tools in hand: your numbers. And to be honest, the confidence that a needs=based budget brings you is a game changer.

Dolph Goldenburg (13:02):

So how do executive directors, or even if you’re a board member that’s helping with the solicitation, how do you project that confidence in your data-based, needs-based budget?

Sherry Quam Taylor (13:12):

Yeah. So there’s always this moment of pivoting. We have to stop being reactive and actually have this mindset shift to this-is-what-we-need and pro-actively put a plan in place to pivot and go in that direction. And so it’s a big mindset thing, Dolph. I see leaders questions themselves and this concept and ask, “Can I do that? I can create a budget that is not squeak-by? I can actually point in that direction?” Absolutely. And so it’s a mindset.

Sherry Quam Taylor (13:56):

And leaders also have to recognize that they must do things differently to grow their organizations and to really push against, confidently, some of those misconceptions that we in the sector really face. Like don’t spend too much money on this because it should all go to programs. Or be careful, donors don’t want to fund your percentages if it’s too high in this area and too low in this area. So I find that the confidence comes when you have a plan in place. If you can sit down and tell somebody, “This year, yes, I am spending 15% on fundraising, because guess what, here’s my plan. I’ll share it with you. Within two years, we’re going to be able to put an extra million dollars into programs.” Well, that’s a win-win and that makes sense. You’re investing in your organization. You’re spending money to make more money that thus that goes back into programs. So we go back to the numbers. If you do not know your numbers, you will not be confident. So that starts with a budget and it starts with a strategic plan to really understand where we’re headed and helping the donor see how they fit into it.

Dolph Goldenburg (15:13):

Sherry, part of what I love about this is I’m also thinking that if I know I need to raise another half million dollars this year and then an additional half million dollars next year, I’m probably going to also prioritize my time differently. So I’m not going to spend nearly so much time cultivating the prospect that I think might give $2,500 and spend a lot more time cultivating the prospects that I think might give $100,000.

Sherry Quam Taylor (15:39):

Here’s what I see being the biggest challenge to that. So we’ve got our needs-based budget. I need to be raising $2 million or $15 million. The scale really doesn’t matter; I’ve used the same methodology for startups bringing in $50,000 as well as $15 million organizations. Here’s the game changer: what you just said, Dolph. So now we know how much we need. Now let’s put the same, if not more time into the top half of that budget, the income. Now, how are we going to hit $1 million? It’s not like, “Well, we have a $500,000 pledge. So we’ll kind of see how that goes.” No. I want a robust income plan per segment, not per event or appeal or campaign. A plan per donor segment per month.

Dolph Goldenburg (16:32):

I’m going to stop you there real quick, just so we’re all on the same page. When you say “per donor segment,” what I picture is that pyramid. We need to plan on who’s in the top of the pyramid and who are the three people at the second tier and the five people in the third tier. So on and so forth. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.

Sherry Quam Taylor (16:50):

You nailed it. And so I want individuals, major gifts, mid-level gifts, peer-to-peer gifts, and one-time gifts all on their own tiers. Here’s why I do that. I want to see those few lines where I need to be putting the majority of my time. So oftentimes our fundraising plans are not aligned from an ROI perspective with the line items on our budget that bring in the most money. And so if I want my top 30 donors bringing in between 50 and 75% of my revenue, but I’m putting all my time into cultivation events or peer-to-peer campaigns or my board is spending all their time finding auction items, then that is not an aligned budget. That is not helping anybody. Therefore we must, board and staff, spend 75% of our fundraising time on those three lines. And, game-changer, very few people are doing this: I want you to chart that out month by month. Here’s what we are literally planning on bringing in every month.

Sherry Quam Taylor (18:08):

Because I have a lot of people come to me, Dolph, around October saying, “I’m a little behind. We have November and December left. What should I do? Can you help me?” And of course I want to. But to be honest, it’s what you do in January and March and the rest of the year that sets you up for success. And if we aren’t looking at our income plan month to month, the year gets away from us. Nonprofit leaders are doing a lot of things, wearing a lot of hats, and the year gets away from you. You have to understand your time and how that needs to be allocated to each fundraising initiative all year long in order to be successful.

Dolph Goldenburg (19:08):

And so let me get your take on this, because I agree with you a hundred percent that you’ve got to know that monthly plan and goals. I’ve actually said to some executive directors I’ve done coaching with that it can be as simple as just one page where you list each month and the three fundraising goals for that month. And you just do that 12 times. And they’re not the same goal every month. But then you can go through when May is done and it’s June, you can say, “All right, did we achieve our May goals?”

Sherry Quam Taylor (19:39):

Yeah. Keep it practical. One person said to me, “I hope I’m not offending you, but your approach is kind of practical in fundraising.” And I was like, (A) that is kind of funny and (B) thank you, because that is the best compliment anyone’s ever given me. Because guess what? We can all do practical. Let’s not design the moon if we don’t need to go to the moon. So I totally agree with you, Dolph, create a plan that works for you. In my 90 day program, I have things people can download, tools they can use, and I’ll say, “Download it and use it if it works for you, if it ties to the way you work.”

Sherry Quam Taylor (20:21):

There is some real simplicity about looking at where your income come should come from and then the time and energy and resources you’re dedicating to it. And if your budget is not aligned both on the expense side and income side in accordance to that, you will never hit your number. And so time is a huge, huge part of this. And so I want any leader who hears me talk to hear me say: Your time is the most valuable asset to the organization. So any minute you are spending fundraising has to be yielding the size gifts you’re going to feel on the bottom line. It has to.

Dolph Goldenburg (21:04):

So there’s something I want to drill down on. Time is the most critical asset that any chief executive or development director has got. And I’ve also heard you say that you want 30 donors that are providing 65% to 75% of your total income from philanthropy. So if I’m a chief executive, how much time should I be spending on each of those 30 donors?

Sherry Quam Taylor (21:32):

So here’s my rule of thumb, Dolph. I always say that you’ll want to meet, or Zoom these days, those top 10 donors about three to four times a year. Now this is rule of thumb. We all have the donor who’s like, “I don’t need to meet with you. Look, can you just call me and tell me what you need?” And we have the one that we’ve met with 10 times, right? So I’m going to land right in the middle here. So I oftentimes recommend budgeting your time for three to four times in person with those top 10. And then there’s going to be the keeping-it-warm interactions as well. And then for those 10 to 30, I recommend about two to three times a year.

Sherry Quam Taylor (22:11):

So I will tell you when I share that with a lot of the students in my program, it is a bit of a deer in the headlights, “Oh my gosh, you want me to do what? How would I even fit that in?” And so that’s not a fair conversation if I say, “Add this to your plate.” We have to also look at the activities you’re doing that are not yielding a great ROI. We have to take something off your plate that maybe was great and got you to this point like a great little event or a great appeal or something everyone else is doing so we should, too, like Giving Tuesday. If it’s taking your time and it’s not yielding a great return, it might be time to cut the cord so that you can then start other activities that do bring in these top 30 gifts.

Dolph Goldenburg (23:00):

Absolutely. In economics we call that opportunity cost. And it’s really asking yourself, “If I don’t spend time on this bake sale, what is the best use of my time?”

Sherry Quam Taylor (23:11):

I really love helping the board use that income plan, also, to align the tasks that they’re doing. And so oftentimes there’s a teaching moment that has to exist of, “Okay. So if we want 75% of our revenue coming in from these three line items, then this is what it looks like for you, as a board member, to support those line items.” And so oftentimes I see that I might just default down to, “Oh yeah. I can help find auction items.” Or, “Yeah. I can bring a foursome to that outing.” Okay. That’s fine. But we also have to help them see what the activities are that actually help you find donors that could fall in those three categories and frankly cultivate them and secure them. And so I always remind executive directors that your board, despite them also being professionals and leaders in the community and entrepreneurs themselves, might not know how to cultivate a donor or lead a donor or set you up for the ask. And so you oftentimes have to manage up and show them where their time should be spent and show them how it’s done.

Dolph Goldenburg (24:28):

I was have to say, give your board opportunities to engage the people they know whether those are introductory events or bringing them in for a tour, whatever it looks like. But give them the opportunities to do it. Most board members don’t spend their time thinking about this the way we spend our time thinking about it.

Sherry Quam Taylor (24:46):

So important. Also tell you the other nugget I have that I always tell people. Oftentimes in trainings somebody comes to me or raises their hand and says, “I can’t get my board to fundraise. They say they don’t know how to do it or they don’t know anybody in their network.” I often find that it may be because there’s something that needs to be demystified from the process. Maybe they don’t totally understand what’s going on. So I’ll actually flip that on the executive director or the development director and say, We’ve been learning to create great donor experiences for your top 30 donors to lead them to an ask that’s really deeply rooted in what that donor values. Now I want you to also do that for every one of your board members. I want you to create a great donor experience, create a great path so that you can serve them and you can solicit them and show them how it’s done.”

Sherry Quam Taylor (25:50):

Because oftentimes that board member will want to introduce you to someone in their network, but will worry about what you are going to say and worry that you will outright ask for money like a used car salesman. But that’s not what we do. We’re going to create a wonderful experience, deeply rooted in hopefully what they value from the organization and show them what an investment would look like and lead them through that in a really warm and wonderful way. So my biggest advice, if you don’t have a board that’s really integrated or helping with this process, would be to show them how it’s done. Because usually they’re like, amazed and realize the solicitation is warm and it isn’t scary. It helps them understand the process and see where they could fit into the process.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:40):

One of the things you mentioned that I see a lot, too, is a lot of board members, even in some high power boards, say, “Oh, well I know people with money. Or I know people with resources. But I really don’t know people that are as committed to this cause as I am.” And one of the tools that I’ve used with organizations is to find the major donor list of organizations in the same space that you’re in, compile all those lists, send it to your board and ask your board members who they know. And then they’re often shocked, “Oh my gosh, I know Jack and Jack gives this organization $25,000 a year.” And, “I know Jane and Jane gives this organization $5,000 a year.” And suddenly they realize, that they do know people that are really passionate and committed to a similar organization and we need to talk to them about it.

Sherry Quam Taylor (27:31):

Yeah, you’re right. That happens so often. The other concept that I love talking about is not leaving money on the table. If you think somebody would be really interested in the mission and they might have the capacity to give, you don’t have to carry the pressure of deciding if that donor can give or not. Your job is to present the opportunity for them to invest in a wonderful mission. So often I see money left on the table when we do things like, “Let’s go talk to my business partner, but I know she gives $20,000 to that organization, so let’s just ask her for $10,000 because I don’t want to offend her. Or, “I know that person switched jobs this year. So let’s just ask for what he gave last year.” We don’t have to carry that pressure because there’s so much money left on the table when we shrink down and don’t actually present the need of the organization and give that donor the opportunity to decide if he or she wants to invest in the organization. So don’t settle and don’t find yourself making the decision for the donor before you even get in the meeting.

Dolph Goldenburg (28:52):

Right. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Don’t say “no” for the donor.

Sherry Quam Taylor (28:55):

Yes. That’s a great way to say it. Don’t say “no” for the donor

Dolph Goldenburg (28:59):

And for, whoever’s doing the ask: don’t ask it in such a way that you’re saying “no” for the donor.

Sherry Quam Taylor (29:06):

Yeah. They’ll start with apologizing!

Dolph Goldenburg (29:09):

Don’t start with apologizing! “I know this is a lot of money and I know you’re already very generous, but would you consider a gift of $25,000?” When you start out that way, you’re saying, “Will you please give me a lot less than $25,000?”

Sherry Quam Taylor (29:20):

Yes. You’re so right. And I see it so often. We have to be careful of taking those nonprofit misconceptions and putting them into our own behaviors when we’re talking to donors, when we’re thanking donors, when we’re soliciting donors. We really need to check ourselves and lead with “Here’s the need our organization has. And our organization and our mission and the people we’re serving, their lives are worthy. And our mission is worthy of being supported no matter what.” So you get to offer, you get to share the need of the organization and you don’t have to carry the weight that we all feel like we have to carry in these asks. And so I also find that mindset is a game changer in confidence because if that donor gives or not, doesn’t matter, you’ve got to go to the next because you still have the same need.

Dolph Goldenburg (30:26):

Absolutely. So I’ve got to share a personal story from my own life. Now my husband and I are low level, major donors to a number of organizations. When I say low level, I mean $1,000 to $2,500 a year. So low level, major donors. I’m going to be really coded about how I say this. There’s one organization where the head of that organization and their development director have done a great job of cultivating me. I have expressed my strong support for the organization. I often share social media posts that they have. I am a strong, strong supporter of this organization. And admittedly, I typically give about $500 or so a year to this organization. So what I don’t think of as even close to a major donor level. Here’s what I’m baffled by: over the last three years, we have gone to lunch probably 9 or 10 times. And by the way, I’m always really clear that I pick it up. My pet peeve is the donors that just sit there and let me pick up the check. So I get it. But anyway, I always pick up the check. And every time they invite me to lunch, I think, “Okay, this is going to be the ask.” We’re three years in. And maybe I’m just being a sadist, but I’m waiting for them to ask. We’re three years in, Sherry.

Sherry Quam Taylor (31:55):

It’s wild. I got to tell you the number of executive directors and even development directors who I start working with who have never solicited other than sending mailers or holding an event like an auction is just astounding. I will tell you, I have a client who knew a donor was giving very large gifts, six figure gifts, to another organization. But the largest gift he’d ever made to my client’s organization was $12,000. But my client wasn’t asking. The donor’s gifts were very reactionary.

Sherry Quam Taylor (32:45):

Once in a while I get to sit in on solicitations if my clients want me to coach them. If they are warm with a client, they tell the client I’m there to help grow the organization. So once my client got the tools in place and had the confidence, we sat down with the donor. And this donor literally said, “I had no idea you needed this much money because you never asked me.” And that gift went from $12,000 to over $100,000 in that year all because of the ask.

Dolph Goldenburg (33:36):


Sherry Quam Taylor (33:37):

So I’ll say to executive directors that you have to invest in yourself to learn how to do this, to learn how to lead your donors to the point where they say yes. If these things make you feel uncomfortable, I’ll tell you it’s really not as scary as you think. And if you think you’re a bad fundraiser, I can guarantee you that you are not. Once you learn to have those conversations and actually see the process and make it your own, then you will see results quickly because donors have not understood what you’ve needed. So you almost like have to see yourself as a translator between your budget and your donors. And you have to make sure you are explaining what the need is so the donor knows how to fit in. Otherwise, they’re just going to decide you need $1,000 check when you really need a $10,000 or a $20,000 check.

Dolph Goldenburg (34:46):

Right. And I don’t know if you preach this or not. But I recommend EDs become donors themselves. I did this with an Executive Director recently. First, I asked if she’s a major donor to any organization. She said she wasn’t. I happen to know what she makes, so I told her she could afford to be a $2,500 donor somewhere and she needed to go donate to an organization. The reason I preach that is, until you think of yourself as a major donor, you don’t think about it through the eyes of the major donor. For example, my story about this organization spending three years cultivating me and has yet to ask. Or you make a donation and it took 3 months to receive a thank you letter; that’s really poor form. To me, becoming a major donor at your level is just an important step. If you’re going to ask others, you have to be for yourself. $25,000 might be too much for you. $2,500 may not be.

Sherry Quam Taylor (35:53):

I love that. I will tell you when I am coaching people or they’re in my program, I am watching and it does come up sometimes that I realize they’re not giving anywhere where it hurts a little bit. And that would actually be good. Whether it’s your own organization or not. But I totally see what you’re saying. There’s a difference once you’ve done it yourself. I’ve done something similar myself. I coach nonprofits how to grow. At one point I hired a coach for myself so I could be a better leader and grow my own business. And I was like, “Cool, that’s a big check that kind of stung so I’m going to really get the most out of this.” I got to tell you, it was a game changer in how I coached my own clients because it just felt different after I also said I need to learn something new and I’m going to financially invest in learning this because I do believe that this will help me grow my business. I didn’t expect it, but it was a game changer. It helped me communicate to my clients to say, “Great job investing in yourself. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and do this together.” I think it just helped me better be a better coach. So that’s great advice that you’re giving to that client of yours.

Dolph Goldenburg (37:11):

I love that. And this leads us to an off-the-map question that’s not really an off-the-map question. So you’ve hired a coach. You are a coach. What should people look for when hiring a coach?

Sherry Quam Taylor (37:27):

That’s great. So I think there is something just generally with the click. You want to make sure you can have honest conversations with each other. What I look for is someone who has been in my shoes, someone who has been stuck before and figured out the path and the way out. I left my corporate career a decade plus ago, joined a nonprofit that was small and struggling and had plateaued, and got in with a real fresh and beginner’s mindset. I said, “That’s kind of a crazy misconception. Well, that’s kind of a crazy one, too. I’m not doing that. I’m going to do this.” And so I say that because I think a lot of my clients like that I’ve been in their shoes and I had to get in and figure it out.

Sherry Quam Taylor (38:21):

We tripled that organization’s revenue in 18 months, pushing against a lot of these nonprofit misconceptions like don’t spend any money, only as volunteers, watch your percentages. Don’t hear me say those are things you should throw out the window. But there’s a time to push them, too. And so that beginner’s mindset was a game changer for me. And I use it still today, a decade later. And so I find that people really like that I’ve been in their shoes and I’ve struggled with what they’ve struggled with so I can say, “Here’s what I did. And here’s what I was really afraid about. But you got this, you can do this.” You don’t really know for sure about that deep personal connection going in. I know that’s the risk part. But I think it leads you to a point of vulnerability where you really can do a lot of mindset work along with learning new skills that really can be a game changer.

Dolph Goldenburg (39:26):

That’s awesome. Sherry, thank you. And thank you so much for sharing that and making yourself a little bit vulnerable as well. I’m so grateful you’ve been chatting with us today. And, Listeners, if you are interested in hearing more about needs-based budgeting and how you can grow your own individual donation program, then be sure to check out Sherry’s website at qualmtaylor.com. It is full of resources. There you can find out more about Sherry’s services and her 90 day Let’s Grow fundraising accelerator. You can also access her blog as well as her free, How to Find Major Donors guide. Dear Listeners, if you think you might be interested in working with Sherry, you can sign up for a free audit and strategy call with her to discuss your nonprofit’s current funding situation and identify steps to move away from being dependent on government funds and one or two donors, and really move to what Sherry talked about, which is having 30 or so major donors that are providing 65% or 75% of your philanthropy budget. And of course, at her website, you can also sign up for her email newsletter. So Sherry, thank you again for being with us today.

Sherry Quam Taylor (40:45):

Thank you, Dolph. I appreciate the time and the good conversation

Dolph Goldenburg (40:48):

Listeners, if you got a little distracted reviewing your own budgets trying to figure out how you can present those better to donors, then be sure to swing by successfulnonprofits.com, where we have this episode’s transcript. We have time-stamped highlights and, of course, a link to Sherry’s website, qualmtaylor.com. I am gearing up for the next Ask Dolph episode. So feel free to send me your intractable problems as questions. And in addition to answering your question personally in an email to you, I may also anonymize the question and answer it in a Q and A episode in the coming months. If you want to hear a sample of an Ask Dolph episode, go to successfulnonprofits.com/askdolph and you can hear a sample. That, Dear Listeners, is our show for the week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

Dolph Goldenburg (41:48):

I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor the Goldenburg Group provide tax legal or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified, licensed professional about such matters.



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