A Fundraising Blueprint for Small Nonprofits
My first Google Hangout happened last month courtesy of Marc Pitman, founder of FundraisingCoach.com and a member of the FS Editorial Advisory Board. He was gathering some of his fellow contributors to “The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits” and invited me to join them for a conversation. (Check it out at here.)
The book comprises individual chapters, each written by a different fundraising pro, covering topics such as boards, retention, awareness, special events, grants and major gifts. Other contributing authors are Betsy Baker, president of YourGrantAuthority.com; Kirsten Bullock, founder of TheNonprofitAcademy.com; Gayle Gifford, president of the Cause & Effect consulting firm; Pamela Grow, publisher of The Grow Report; consultants Lori Jacobwith and Sherry Truhlar; and Sandy Rees, creator of the Get Fully Funded System.
The book is laid out in chapters that can stand on their own, so readers needn’t carve out big chunks of time to read it front to back. Pick a chapter that addresses your need, and dig right in.
The Hangout conversation gave the authors who attended the opportunity to share key takeaways from his or her chapter, as well as a final bit of advice for fundraisers at small nonprofits. Some of their thoughts on the latter:
Marc Pitman: “One of the things that I had to do for my own sanity was create a spreadsheet, and I logged my time,” he says, adding that his spreadsheet listed all areas that he was responsible for, from major gifts to special events to “community things, because I was the only external face for the organization” and also internal obligations such as the 40 percent of his time that was dedicated to meetings and professional education, etc.
“I didn’t keep hours; I put in percentages because hours fluctuate,” he adds. “That’s what I did, every month, just kept track of it and totaled it up.”
Gayle Gifford: “Every development person should get themselves a circle of peers. Many of us belong to the Association
of Fundraising Professionals or other professional associations. When I started my career, that was so important. And it continues to be, to know that you have other people who get it, who understand you, who have more experience — or less but have different approaches — to mentor you, to be there. And I have always found the fundraising community [to be] a very embracing and nurturing community.”
Kirsten Bullock: “Schedule time to think. A lot of times we fill up our schedules, but we forget that we need time to think and plan for what we’re going to do. Even if it’s just half an hour or an hour a week, schedule the time to think and plan and identify what the top priorities are for the organization.
“Then, rather than looking at a large to-do list, identify the top three things that need to be done, three important projects each week, and try to fit those in. If we’re just focusing on three at a time, it’s a lot easier and we can get a lot more accomplished because we’re really focusing.”
Sherry Truhlar: “I think the only thing left is massage and manicure.”
We ended the session with a quick wrap-up of “one quick word of advice to the people who are reading the book.” The authors’ responses:
KB: “I would say that the biggest thing to do is not try to accomplish everything at once. Just scan through [the book], figure where your organization needs some help and start with that chapter. Just focus in on one thing.”
GG: “Find the place that you feel is your strength, and start there because you’ll do better at what you’re strongest at. Get to your weaknesses later, but work with your strengths and move that forward.”
ST: “I’m always a big believer in having fun. That’s my big belief. And when it stops being fun, I start moving on. But both Kirsten and Gayle tied into it very nicely because if you start with something you’re good at, you’re usually enjoying it because you’re better at it.
MP: “Oh no! Can I just say, ‘What they said?’ Buy the book. Buy it now! Essentialfundraisinghandbook.com!
“[Going back to] Gayle’s point about reaching out to other people and developing a support network: Usually those of us who are in fundraising are the weirdos at our organizations. We’re just the oddballs because we actually like doing this on some level, some aspect of this.
“And finding those other weirdos in your community — sometimes it’s even better to do it across country; there are Facebook groups, there are professional associations, there are informal ad hoc things, there’s coaching and consultants, whatever — finding people that you can call up when you’re at a high or a low and just say, ‘Remind me, I’m not crazy, right? Or if I’m crazy, I’m not the only one who’s crazy this way.’ And that can really help you avoid the burnout that’s talked about in the study called ‘Underdeveloped’ that talks about how 50 percent of CEOs want to fire their fundraisers and 75 percent of the fundraisers want to quit. That doesn’t have to be a reality.”