Mission-Focused Fundraising in the Current Political Climate
I received an onslaught of emails with subject lines showing a political candidate’s name. It was an invitation to contribute to one of many campaigns during this mid-year election season. "Max out at $2,700 is a solid show of support," claimed some of the pitches I received.
Daily, I would stare at my screen, thinking mostly positive things about the candidates and all the initiatives they should take on to unite the country, save the environment or locally, work to make for a better Georgia. But I also thought about giving to political campaigns that wouldn't feel like throwing money onto a bonfire that will burn through billions by Election Day.
Raising money for nonprofits has never been simple. However, the current political climate has created some unique circumstances. With budget cuts from our nation’s capital threatening everything from Planned Parenthood to Meals on Wheels, philanthropists and nonprofit leaders have reached a point where they are facing both more adversity and more support than ever.
The current political climate has had some significantly impacts on the fundraising profession and philanthropy. It is teaching nonprofit professionals to focus on why their work is so important versus focusing on exactly what their work is. It is helping the sector more firmly embrace the importance of being a cause versus being an organization, mission-focused fundraising.
Mission-focused fundraising is mobilizing volunteers and boards of directors to understand the importance of becoming an advocate of their work and speaking out as citizens about what is important and what is right.
Nonprofit organizations that are clear about what they stand for are enjoying increased giving so that like-minded persons can be in cause-related alignment with others in the community who feel the same way. Mission-based fundraising is about taking a stronger stand and having a louder and clearer voice and not trying to be everything to everybody in the hopes that they could get a little something from a lot of people.
This current political climate has created a generational shift where the idea of fundraising is about taking a stand in order to raise more money. The key is being selective with donor choice and message delivery, targeting fewer people, which often times result in a more solid and sustainable base of support versus taking them all on and creating a broad-based, less sustainable, foundation of support.
Mission-focused fundraising is forcing some nonprofit organizations to prove a social benefit which can be hard work. Diverse people have diverse ideas and ideals about what social benefit actually means to each of them. For many, mission-focused fundraising keeps a passion for what the organization does alive the hope for a better society possible. It is creating true advocates for your work. Those that advocate for your mission are those that will be around for the long haul
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.