Fundraising With LEGOs
A dependable revenue stream that grows — ah, paradise!
Have a fundraising challenge that you want to crack? Do you want to be strategic with your efforts and get results? Weary of doing the same old, same old yet hoping for different outcomes?
Email me with your particular problem, and I'll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
I had the privilege of speaking with the executive director of a small arts organization a few days back. Taylor related the organization's need to expand the school-based arts program it executes for the local public school district. Apparently, it's a considerable success with a growing demand for it by school officials in the area. Sounds good: good work appreciated by those on the receiving end.
Taylor reached out to me with the query as to how to proceed with the organization's fundraising to provide for the school program's expansion. Should it focus upon increasing receipts to the general operating fund? What about a couple of targeted "major gift" asks? Is a planned giving effort to expand its modest endowment the way to go? Or perhaps, is another capital campaign the shortest route to success?
Based upon the financials, which Taylor supplied, acquiring the additional revenue for the proposed program expansion is well within this local group's ability.
It won't be successful using its current thinking, however.
Albert Einstein wisely said, "Our current problems cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them."
When seeking to expand our efforts to change the lives of others, the leadership of well-meaning charitable organizations very often think in terms of putting the pieces of a fundraising program together to generate the revenue for a particular program or outreach effort.
This approach to fundraising is akin to upending a box of LEGOs, spilling the contents onto a table and then one by one putting pieces together that "fit." The result — either a structure, which has strength and beauty, or a conglomeration of plastic blocks that is nothing less than an unholy mess. Unless you've thought through the big picture in advance, it's usually the latter.
I counseled Taylor to think of fundraising as a journey for donors rather than a set of semi-independent fundraising programs all with their own goals, objectives and methods — proverbial LEGO blocks.
Make no mistake, donors set both the direction and force of fundraising. No matter how good or effective your work in the community, it's really not about you or your programs. Principle 1 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Donors are the DriversTM. Donors drive philanthropy through their values and visions.
So, how does this high-minded concept work in the front-line world of fundraising? What's the nitty-gritty when generating sufficient revenue represents success or failure?
Instead of fitting donors to your programs, focus upon creating a seamless path for donors to grow in your organization. Identify and reinforce those donor values that support your efforts. Help your investors to give as it is appropriate for them. Encourage them to invest as it fits their particular situations in life — whether that's general cash giving, higher cash giving, gifts of assets ("major gifts"), planned gifts (simply "major gifts" that have an additional external donor motive along with a deferred payment schedule) or even through a capital campaign.
This paradigm sometimes goes under the name of "all source funding."
This may sound like a subtle — even a trifling — change. I can assure it is not. Thought through, such a change will infuse every fundraising effort, every donor communication, every press release, every telephone greeting to donors when they call. Think about it.
The lives of the school children are enriched as Taylor's organization expands its ability to reach out as the lives of the investor donors are fulfilled with the realization of their own visions and values. Everybody wins!
What started as a query on how to raise money to expand a popular program of outreach to school children has now kick-started a full review of the organization's total fundraising program. The goal? To create the seamless path for donors to grow with the organization as they experience their values being realized.
The good news for Taylor is that the funds for the needed expansion will be there, as the organization needs them. It's an irony that by not focusing on the money, per se, the money will be there — in sufficient amounts.
I've asked Taylor to touch base with me in six months or so to let me how it's going. I'm looking forward to hearing very good news. I can hardly wait!
I extend my thanks and very best wishes to Taylor for sharing her situation so candidly.
Let me hear from you concerning your particular situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me (info@TheEightPrinciples.com), and I'll arrange a brief consult providing you with a practical solution. I'll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it!
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
Reach Larry on social media at: