A Model (Citizen) Fundraising Partnership
At age 23, Dan Fleyshman became the youngest owner of a publicly traded company after selling $15 million of clothing to retail stores and securing a $9.5 million licensing deal with Starter Apparel. An avid philanthropist, Fleyshman supported two dozen charities before ultimately founding the Model Citizen Fund, a nonprofit that provides backpacks with more than 100 items to underprivileged people around the world.
Recently, Fleyshman teamed up with the Karma Foundation, a philanthropic, members-only networking group, to raise money and provide more survival packs for the homeless. More than $25,000 has been raised so far through the partnership through a variety of fundraising tactics.
Fleyshman and Marvin Epstein, executive VP of the Karma Foundation, recently spoke with FundRaising Success about their organizations and their fundraising partnership. Here is part of the interview with Fleyshman. Look for the complete interviews with Fleyshman and Epstein in Today in Fundraising.
FundRaising Success: How did your partnership with the Karma Foundation form?
Dan Fleyshman: I was originally introduced to Karma Foundation by one of their partners, Marvin Epstein. Through Marvin, I quickly learned what Karma was all about — successful entrepreneurs and executives who are a community of people looking to enhance their lives and their network, all while being able to benefit and support remarkable causes.
As soon as I heard about Karma, I was immediately interested. I've been an entrepreneur since I was a teenager … Business strategy was always on my mind …
By becoming a Karma member, I could network and share my story with people who are as passionate and interested in entrepreneurialism as I am. I see Karma as an all-encompassing community, where the benefits for a member are endless, and decided to inquire about how they could help Model Citizen Fund. Once I applied for a charity sponsorship, I entered a screening process like all of the charities do, and after many sit-downs and one-on-one strategy sessions, Model Citizen Fund was named one of the beneficiaries of an elite Karma event.
The event itself was spectacular: Over 4,000 attendees made it out to the Vegas-based social event, where performers like Grammy-winning artist Chris Brown, Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D, DJ Paul Oakenfold and Rev Run entertained the crowd. Proceeds benefitted Model Citizen Fund, which in turn helped the victims of Hurricane Isaac. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome or more effective way of fundraising.
FS: Can you discuss the fundraising tactics Model Citizen Fund and Karma Foundation utilize?
DF: Model Citizen Fund has a couple of different fundraising elements, all working simultaneously to maximize donor involvement and overall effectiveness. One of the most standard fundraising strategies that most nonprofits practice is private donations — reaching out to friends, family, colleagues and anyone you personally know. This is a great "step one" approach when looking for donations, but it shouldn't end there.
The staff at Model Citizen Fund then reaches out to suppliers — the big-name companies that want to help produce, design and distribute certain products. Instead of paying full retail price for the supplies found in each backpack, we have access to a significant discount simply by reaching out to these companies and remaining passionate when discussing our cause. Of course, buying in bulk also helps.
Model Citizen Fund is operationally funded by me and other donor relationships. We have not launched our grant request program, although we plan to in 2013. This is a long process, and you never know if it will be successful. Our staff, distributors and board members all volunteer their time to the nonprofit, another example of the immense passion behind our overall mission.
Another effective strategy Model Citizen Fund has employed is hosting different types of events to benefit our cause. We have hosted nightlife entertainment events, music festivals, poker tournaments and more. The different connections I've made in the past are helpful when having to reach out to venue owners or event coordinators. … Every relationship helps and makes a difference.
When we partnered with Karma to fundraise, they had a variety of fundraising strategies in play that were direct and effective, creating a smooth process all around. In one instance, Karma hosted a more intimate fundraising social event at my home in Beverly Hills (which was a follow-up to the Vegas event), where members turned up to donate, learn more and have a great time. Again, 100 percent of the proceeds benefited Model Citizen Fund and Hurricane Isaac victims. From there, Karma produced a short video piece on the effects of the hurricane and how families are still coping today, which was shared throughout all of our social-media platforms.
Social media is another great tool available to boost donations. You'll be pleasantly surprised knowing that other people in the world are equally as passionate about the cause — and multiple free platforms are available right at your fingertips.
FS: What advice would you give to fundraisers looking to expand their fundraising and perhaps reach out to corporate or other nonprofit partners?
DF: If you're going to reach out to anyone on a corporate level, there are three things you should expect to encounter. For one, these people are extremely busy. Two, the corporate company most likely has other nonprofit involvements, so adding another to the list is probably not on a CEO's agenda. Lastly, corporate execs don't have a lot of time on their hands to listen to a 60-minute presentation on your mission.
With this in mind, you need to be concise and efficient with presentation delivery to the corporate world. The execs are not going to be the "hearts and flowers" emotional-based group — they are more practical and tactical than anything else.
My advice is to really understand who you are presenting to: Do your homework and research the company beforehand, and see if they are adamant about a particular cause, and try to connect your own mission to it. Don't make your pitch too complex to understand — keep it short, concise and unique. Stand out amongst any other nonprofit presentations, and always distribute supporting material. This way, even when the elevator pitch is done, your pamphlet sits at their desk, constantly tempting them to give you a call back. Endorsements from their contemporaries about your cause are always helpful as well.