A Confession — and a Challenge to Fundraisers
Last week, I suggested five back-to-work supplies no fundraiser should be without. The second "supply" I suggested was a Rolodex, literal or electronic. I wrote, "The person you met at a conference, the former colleague who has moved on or even the person you cold-called a year ago when you had a question may be a great source of information when you are facing a new situation or a troubling trend."
One of my good friends who supplies a product used by fundraisers sent me an email saying, "Wish the day of 'friends' in the business was still true, but I have found … not many people are willing to share info anymore. I have a few old friends that will share some info, but the day when we would sit around a table and share is over."
My confession — I have a "Pollyanna streak" a mile long, and as a result, I can be naive. I have been blessed by generous people who provided learnings and suggestions as I traveled my (so far) 35-year journey in fundraising. (The person who sent me that email is one of them.) And I have tried to say "thank you" by sharing information with others — through teaching, writing, mentoring, answering emails and calls from people with questions about fundraising, etc.
Why? Because I genuinely believe that there is enough money to go around. What there isn't enough of are passionate people who not only love an organization's mission but understand fundraising enough to be able to show others how supporting that cause will help them further their own philanthropic goals.
Anyone who has been in fundraising for any length of time knows how one organization can be negatively impacted by the mistakes of another. If one organization with a mission of X is headline news for a day or two because of a misdeed, other organizations with a mission of X often see their income take a steep decline. If your name is similar to another organization's or you get funding from an organization, its misdeeds can threaten your organization.
By the same token, strong nonprofits (whether they raise $100,000 or $100,000,000) can help each other — even indirectly. When people have a positive feeling in general about the work nonprofits do, will they be more open to responding to a request from an individual charity that does work that is viewed as important to them? It seems likely. As John F. Kennedy said, "A rising tide lifts all boats."
So, here's my request. Be known as a person in the philanthropic community who is generous with knowledge. Offer to write up a case study of something that has revolutionized your fundraising (even a small revolution counts). If you don't think you can write, contact me and tell me your story; I'm always looking for content, and I may just write it up for an article — crediting you, of course.
Offer to mentor a person beginning in fundraising. This doesn't have to be a lifelong commitment, but what about getting together every two weeks for three months to help him or her gain confidence at that first fundraising job? Or, offer to lead a roundtable at a gathering of fundraisers in your community, or at least come prepared and willing to share an example that can help others.
There is a wealth of information provided in our community that is free to use (you're reading one of them right now). Many seasoned professionals such as Willis Turner, Jeff Jowdy, Todd Baker, Mal Warwick, Jerry Huntsinger and Herschell Gordon Lewis (his fundraising work, not the gore movie genre!) have been my teachers — and they never knew it.
This old dog would love to add your name to that list. What can you share — and where can you share it — to help another fundraiser become even better at his or her work? Will you freely share it? I hope so. And thank you in advance.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.