Let’s be real. Fundraising is not a volunteer job that people jump on a board ready to be successful at. Or want to participate in at all. (Sure, Sure, every board member can help thank donors… but will everyone?)
So, if you, the development professional whose job it is to raise funds need some board members to assist, you are going to have to work very very hard, one-on-one, to help them be successful.
Grassroots International’s results show that the question isn’t whether to print your Annual Report, but how to do it a way that supports donor results – like a $25,000 first-time gift by mail.
As someone who trolls Form 990s and the nonprofit press fairly frequently, the news that some nonprofits are not reporting fundraising expenses wasn’t a surprise. The number of errors on 990s in general has been reported before.
But 41% of the largest nonprofits! That I didn’t expect.
Collaborative fundraising takes time and trust. That’s what we heard over and again in our interviews with seven nonprofit executives in Rhode Island, Boston, Cleveland and Spokane, each of them successful collaborative fundraisers.
We looked into the topic at the prompting of our friends at New Roots Providence and presented our early findings at a New Roots workshop on January 19.
The short version of what we learned from our informants:
- Successful collaborations flow from a deep process of trust-building among the partners. The right partners may take years to self-select, discover their shared goals and commit to combined action.
- Detailed legal agreements help establish trust and smooth functioning by exploring and resolving the partners’ deepest worries in advance. (These also take time)
- At the same time, good partners must be ready to make commonsense adjustments to agreements when they create unfair or unproductive results for some partners.
- Long-term and permanent collaborations need to form an independent organization to fundraise and distribute revenues. (Another time-consuming process.)
- The collaborative case must promise more than the sum of its partners: new funders respond to a transformative vision.
- Truly successful collaborations can reach more and larger funders and generate more income at lower cost than the two partners could achieve separately.
Our cases covered five forms of joint fundraising: grants, workplace campaigns, events, capital campaigns, and, finally, our elusive ideal of truly integrated annual fundraising. We’ll tell you more about three very interesting cases in future posts:
- The YWCA and YMCA in Spokane, Washington created a fully integrated capital campaign to build new shared buildings in two locations.
- The Gordon Square Arts District in Cleveland, Ohio brought two theater companies together with a community development organization to build not just theaters, but a whole theater-oriented arts district with major economic benefits for the city.
- The Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts began by building new shared performance space for the the Nora Theater Company and the Underground Railway Theater. The partnership then went on to take on all fundraising, business and back office operations, leaving both groups free to focus on their artistic missions alone.
If you have had a good – or bad – experience with collaborative fundraising that you think could help others, please send me an email. We’d love to hear from you.
So, let’s finish up the plans, polish up the case, and then get down to the really important work — those one-on-one conversations that are essential to our fundraising success.
Too soon, you say. Mustn’t bother our donors but once a year, you protest.
I’m with you that it might be too soon for those donors who always send you a generous gift at the end of the year. (Though many direct marketers would dispute that).
But what about the donors who haven’t responded to your annual appeal?
In our work, we often encounter small nonprofits or new fundraisers who believe that the “annual” appeal is just that, a once-a-year request for a donation.
These small organizations often don’t analyze the giving patterns of their donors. They may have no useful donor database, or haven’t thought about what just how much work it might take to get donors to give again.
If an “annual” appeal raises the same amount of money or even just a bit more than it did the year before, it’s considered a success. But what isn’t known Read more
1. A gift pyramid is really helpful to determine the level of effort you need to raise money. It’s not just for big campaigns. You can use it to plan for special events and even annual giving programs. See how one works online at http://tinyurl.com/26oe4d
As a donor, it makes me crazy when I mail a check for a contribution to an organization I care about and the check doesn’t get cashed right away. Let me say that my definition of “right away” stretches to a few days (especially for small organizations).
But after that, the failure to cash my check raises a series of doubts in my mind:
This week’s blog is just a quick reminder to check your state’s requirements to see if your organization is required to register before launching any charitable solicitations or if you are required to register as fundraising counsel or professional fundraiser.