Many of us would not be where we are today if it were not for a hook up. It might be the friend of a parent who makes a call to get us into a competitive university. Perhaps we are trying to get admitted into an exclusive club and we call upon a member to ‘put in a good word for us.’ Or how many of us have scored free airline tickets because we know someone who can get buddy passes? Hook ups are an integral part of life in America and beyond.

Before we move on, allow me to define “hook ups” so that we understand the context in which we are communicating. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a hook up is defined as: “a state of cooperation or alliance.” That seems like a workable description.

In a small organization the hook up is critical. We spend a lot of time talking about donor databases, which oil & gas companies give the most, and how much our tickets for the gala should cost. However, the real money is in the hook up and I will explain why.

First of all, the hook up gives our organizations instant credibility. When we are working to get in front of a new prospective donor and we are endorsed by someone known and trusted to the prospect, that makes them much more open to working with us and they assume that we are legitimate. With all of the negative press about various nonprofit organizations doing things that they should not do, we all become a bit suspicious when dealing with new people. When we have someone vouch for us and say that “these are good people,” we can overcome the concerns that some people have regarding organizations unknown to them.

Also, the hook up can bring new opportunities to us. A lot of success in fund raising in the small nonprofit organization comes from being in the right place at the right time. I have found that when I attend events that have large gatherings of people and start talking to various individuals, something good happens – nearly 100% of the time. There are funding opportunities, both institutional and individual, that we do not know about. For example, I am sure that you know someone who has a Donor Advised Fund and you are not aware of it. Some community foundations work hard to be gatekeepers and limit access to these individuals. There are several times a year when people that I know will call and let me know about some opportunity of which I was not aware. Please understand that knowledge is power. A person can hook you up with information and that can be as valuable as money. Of course there is a degree of follow-through that is required and you have to be able to recognize an opportunity when it is presented, but the hook up can be a great way to get in on the ground floor.

Lastly, hook ups give people an opportunity to help. I operate professionally under the belief that everyone knows someone that I should know, I just need to talk to them enough to figure out who it is, and see if they would be willing to help me access that person. Everyone that I meet is not able to make a significant financial gift to my organization. But if they know someone who is capable of making a gift and interested in the work of ICHC, we benefit from them providing the hook up. In these scenarios it is important to follow up with that person and let them know the outcome of their help, and to thank them appropriately. They may not have written the check but if they leveraged a $5,000 gift then it is important to acknowledge them.

The hook up is an important tool in the arsenal of development staff at small organizations. By understanding its power you can propel your fund raising forward and you will not have to work any harder than you do now.

Good luck and Happy St. Patrick’s Day,


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