Larry C. Johnson: The 8 Principles of Sustainable Fundraising
FS: What organizations stand out to you for their fundraising prowess?
LJ: There are two very well-known organizations that I think have done a very good job of this and exhibit a lot of what I call the eight principles. The first one is Teach for America. When Wendy Cobb started this proposition it was simply a dream for her and nothing more. She built it from the inside-out and used many of the same principles we're talking about, and it's become quite a fundraising powerhouse. And Habitat for Humanity. There again you have a strong vision, a strong mission inside-out that has gradually morphed into an international organization.
FS: What other issues are concerning fundraisers right now?
LJ: There are two things. One thing we already mentioned, and that is boards that are anchors and not boats. The other thing is, how do you put this all together to make it work? Every year we see after the new year there are lots of people who make resolutions to go to the gym and get fit. About six weeks later, the crowd level is down to what it was before Christmas. That's another way of saying that a lot of people want the result without enduring the process. There's such a sense that I want to go out and raise money. That's wonderful, but there's a time, there's investment, there's a coordination piece. That's something I see often. More people are getting it. More people are understanding it. It's the need to move toward a system that moves donors naturally through the process.
FS: Anything you'd like to add?
LJ: Outside of what's in this book, the fundraisers that I know, be they professionals or volunteers, they need to have a healthy relationship with money, a healthy understanding of that, especially in what we've seen over the last year in the popular media. There's a lot of prejudice over people who have versus have not, and there are a lot of assumptions being made. Money is often a taboo subject precisely because it's so personal. We as the ones going out to ask to invite others in to participate need to get beyond this. We need to question ourselves pretty closely when we go in to see a donor — do we have some of these preconceived notions or assumptions that we need to dispense with and just listen to see what's coming back to us? Realize that most of the anxiety that's associated with asking for money is really due to our own insecurities regarding money. We haven't worked through some of those issues ourselves. Once we move beyond these, we can ask freely. Money is not the object of fundraising. Fulfillment of the donor is. But money that's well-invested is the result of that.