An Interview With Dani Brzozowski, director of development, Open Books
FS: Tell us about a recent successful fundraising effort.
DB: At a recent partnership event (a happy hour/networking event with an organization devoted to bringing volunteers together in a social and fun atmosphere), I got into a passionate discussion with a young man who sits on this organization’s board. He and I talked for some time about Open Books’ mission, and I was able to be quite frank with him about my goals and how I plan to accomplish them for Open Books. As it turns out, connecting with him was invaluable. Not only did our open talk about Open Books’ mission strike a chord that led him to be personally interested in making a gift, but my articulation of my intended path to fundraising success led him to mention his close connection to the grant-making committee of a foundation for which I’m currently preparing a proposal.
FS: How about major difficulties or setbacks, things you would do differently with your fundraising?
DB: I’ve only been doing the fundraising for Open Books for about a month. I haven’t yet had any major difficulties, but I can see that one of the biggest obstacles I’ll face in seeking support from funders is a lack of history. Open Books is moving along at the speed of light, with new and greater successes every day; but in some cases, funders are simply looking for organizations that have a longer-term track record of success.
FS: What advice do you have for organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
DB: Really know the problem, and be genuinely prepared to tackle it. Know what makes you uniquely capable. Have a solid plan and collaborate. Without working with other organizations in Chicago, Open Books would not be prepared to eradicate illiteracy in the city. But the pooling of resources is an indispensable tool and something young organizations often neglect for fear of competition. Make a name for yourself, but make that name synonymous with collaboration. And staffing is critical! With a small organization, it’s crucial that staff not only be capable of doing the jobs for which they’re hired, but that they bring a background that strengthens the organization, that fills some gap in knowledge or experience.