After taking the leap and founding Jewish online giving days last year and my most recent Giving Day work that helped 23 organizations raise $5.35M on Feb. 17th with only 2 months lead time, I hear myself being dubbed a fundraiser. That’s only sort of true. It’s much better than that: I like to build strategies and provide tools and insights to explode through organizations’ goals, while unlocking and opening up new streams of revenue. But how can I, the non-fundraiser, do that, while folks who’ve been fundraising for decades are now struggling?
To me, funding and programming are integrated, so it shouldn’t take away from their cause work or be draining. Really? Really. That’s why I LOVE doing this and connecting as much as I can – because I deplore watching amazing programs get demoralized, side-tracked, or worse: sink under “fundraising” and LOVE helping organizations do more of what they love and the community needs.
I believe and operate on this: The more value from a product / program, the greater the funds that can be offered to pay/support them. It will unlock your fundraising. I know others do it differently:
Of course, there are other ways to elicit those funds, because: Perception = Value. Relationship = Value. Product = Value.
For example, Perception = Value: You pay $5000 more for a Lexus ES than a Toyota Avalon despite the same goods under the hood: they share a platform, transmission and engine. $5000: for some – worthwhile for the bragging rights and interior amenities. For others: rip off. It depends on the customer’s / donor’s values!
Relationship = Value: There is a private school with 200 students that brings in $3.5M a year in fundraising, struggling with enrollment. Their revenue per student a year is $42,000. Down the street, there is a similar private school with 300 students that brings in only $500,000 a year in fundraising and grants, bursting from the seams. Their revenue per student a year is $15,000. The first school has a seasoned fundraiser with incredible relationships with high net worth donors. Worthwhile? Depends on the donors’ values!
Product = Value. Wouldn’t that be the fairest for everyone? If a product provides X value – that is what you pay or that is what they receive?! I hear the dissent: “But it’s all relative!” While one person values the contribution of a certain cause and sees that its mission is being pursued in a responsible, effective, and efficient way – commensurately – then that person becomes a supporter. They’re thinking, “This is so worthwhile and needs to happen!” Meanwhile – someone else will see it and think: I couldn’t care less or I have other priorities that need ME, this is for someone else. Or they’ll think: the efforts aren’t worth the output. And they’re not a supporter. Ever. But the same goes for products: you know, like Jimmy Choos, or a wahwah pedal, or a vacuum cleaner. I’d buy the vacuum cleaner. My husband would buy the wahwah pedal, and my daughter would buy the Jimmy Choos. 🙂 But there’s a customer for all of these -and that’s my insight:
It means: I don’t classically “fundraise.” I don’t encourage raising funds without looking at whether you’re meeting your goals: are you a good investment based on your own standards? Do you have a plan and the resources to be a good investment? Once you are, then your unique supporters can and will sustain you. (Confession: I LOVE the genre of start-up literature. my FAVE aisle in the library. I no longer read much from the nonprofit sector. Cause organizations are change-makers. And if a cause organization is no longer a change-maker – then it’s not for me.)
What do I really do: I help organizations that truly are change-makers leverage what they are: their immense unique value. It’s entirely multi-dimensional work: working through programming, people, funding. I help them work & plan smarter and exercise their creativity, identify opportunities and resources, then elicit (and some soliciting) funds to invest in sustaining, growing or evolving their unique value through collaborations or shiny new tools that work on age-old experience.
The first step is self-reflection: If they are not maximizing that unique value or reaching their stated vision: then the first step is to look inside and see what can be shifted. If not: I will NOT do or recommend Perception-based / Relationship-based only fundraising. Because I believe that the amount going into an organization should be commensurate with their impact and productivity: NOT to support just the image/ brand / relationship to individuals within an organization. They must prove their worth first. Wow… the bounce rate just skyrocketed- and now, it’s just YOU and me ;).
This is the secret to my success: I only work with those who I can be successful with because they’re doing incredible work efficiently – but they haven’t been able to translate it into funding. Who are they? Those people who recognize opportunity, their short-comings, and the absolute need for their efforts to be as successful as humanly possible and willingness to allow others into their efforts- because they see they can help change the world from the corner they occupy. Come hell or high water, funding or no funding. They usually don’t see it, but they are the truly honest, brave ones -potential lamplighters.
Once your output is approaching, equal to, or exceeds your goals and there is just an issue with: how do I raise the funds to sustain this amazingness – that’s where I come in and can help with determining, crafting and opening up revenue streams suited to you.
Once you recognize: “My organization is not meeting its goals to the highest standards and we are unable to raise adequate funds – but I truly am dedicated to my cause,” that’s where I come in and work together on how you can approach your goals with little upfront cash or while opening up new revenue streams, suited to you.
Once you recognize: my organization is raising too much money but not putting out enough of our desired mission – but I am truly dedicated to doing the best for my community with these resources – your answer will likely be in your backyard and happy to help and share your wealth;).
Who doesn’t love unlocking cause organizations to do their best work, meet their goals, and become financially stable without having to take on excessive development expenses or activities? Because theirs is work and investment in our communities and world that can be truly change-making, for the good! Fundraising, I hear. It’s really pitching well-crafted, high-impact investment opportunities. Unlock your potential, and the work becomes invigorating instead of draining.