An Interview With the Center for Family Representation's John Linder
FS: Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
JL: CFR does not always follow “best practices” in fundraising. For example, our online giving requires three steps before a donor can make a gift. Donors can go a week or more before being acknowledged. Additionally, we do not do a lot of face-to-face fundraising with major donors. All of these, and more, are being changed. We are launching a new website in April, reworking our gift acknowledgment processes and have begun making in-person asks with donors.
FS: What is CFR's fundraising philosophy?
JL: CFR is very data-driven, and our messaging to donors reflects this philosophy. We have begun to further tailor our messages to issue-specific donors — for example, donors who care about families facing domestic violence or those focused on mental-health issues. This tailoring has begun to open more doors for our fundraising in addition to keeping our current stalwart funders.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours in size and annual operating budget?
JL: CFR is an organization with two personalities. While our core program and funding come from two very large contracts, our private dollars, though relatively small, are critical to the mission and the success of the organization. CFR is driven by the city contracts, yet our private dollars really allow CFR to do some of the truly innovative activities we are known for nationally.
My advice would be to keep good data, track your successes, gather and tell your stories, and most importantly be as nimble as possible. Organizations in the $7 million range are relatively large for a nonprofit (though there are much, much bigger organizations), and I think organizations at this level can start to get set in their ways a little too easily.
I think it is incredibly important to remember the flexibility that your organization had when it was smaller. Don’t lose that perspective. We try to approach problems from various perspectives and try new solutions. For example, we aren’t afraid to engage volunteers in traditional staff roles to expand our impact. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t be afraid to experiment!