Fundraisers never lack for advice. One board member tells you that foundations should be giving you money, while another thinks we should talk to Bill Gates. The staff thinks you should raising money from corporations. And the friend you run into at the grocery store tells you to raise money via Twitter or on Kickstarter.
The reality is that the board members should be raising money from foundations and major donors. The staff and the executive director should be raising money from corporations. The friend should be raising money for you on Twitter and Kickstarter.
So actually, fundraising isn't about you raising money, it's about all of them raising money. And your job isn't about so much for you to raise money; your job is about getting all of them to raise money.
And right there is the link between fundraising and leadership.
In fact, fundraising has more in common with volunteer management and community organizing than it does with technical knowledge about prospect research or grantwriting skills. Let's start calling fundraisers what they are: organizational leaders and movement builders. And fundraisers: let's start acting like what we really are!
* Are you an executive who followeda founder or longtime executive director with a compelling story to tell? Much of the literature on nonprofit executive transition has focused on the departing executive director. What about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the person who comes next? We want to interview you for a First Person Nonprofit article; you can choose whether to use your name or stay anonymous. Please send an email and include your contact information and time zone!
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* In this issue: Ten Things Your Board Is Doing Right And Doesn't Even Realize It, Fundraising in Communities of Color, a quick DIY project with bylaws, and a guest humor columnist about a board comprised of cows (yes, cows). And news from our sponsor, American Nonprofits. -- Jan Masaoka and the Blue Avocado team
Almost all research on fundraising is done on mainstream nonprofits, and almost all advice and guides on fundraising are addressed implicitly to mainstream nonprofits. Yet because they have different development trajectories, nonprofits in communities of color often have fundamentally different assets and deficits than mainstream organizations of the same size and age.
For instance, imagine two afterschool tutoring programs, each 15 years old, and each with a budget of $600,000. The mainstream program is likely to have been founded by a group of prominent volunteers, mostly white, mostly upper middle income. Today it gets about 70% of its funding from foundations and 30% from individual donors. From its base of founding volutneer donors, the organization had strong writing skills and connections that positioned them for both grantwriting and fundraising events.
In contrast, a parallel tutoring program in an African American or Latino community, for example, is likely to have been founded by a group of community activists, mostly African American or Latino, mostly middle and lower-middle income. With the same budget as the mainstream program, this program gets 95% of its funding from local government, 4% from fundraising events, and 1% from foundations. Its founders had the political connections and savvy to obtain government funding and as an anchor organization in a low-income community, their continued involvement with broader community affairs continues to support their funding strategy as well.
No matter what goes wrong in a nonprofit, somehow the board gets blamed. If the executive director embezzled money, people say, "Where was the board?" Why don't they say: "Executives are always at the root of the problem. Why don't we just stop having them?" In fact, boards and board members don't get credit for some important work they do without even realizing they are doing it. Think about it:
1. Safety net: The confident trapeze artist doesn't really see the point of the expensive safety net. Few people appreciate safety nets -- or boards -- when things are going fine. But when a nonprofit's staff leadership falls off the tightrope, nonprofit boards step up, govern, fix things, and hire a new, better executive.
Think of a nonprofit scandal such as the executive of a halfway house molesting residents, or the executive of a disaster relief nonprofit embezzling money. In virtually all of these cases, the board -- whether previously asleep or lied to -- stepped in and saved things.
In a for-profit small business, such a problem would simply bring the company down. But nonprofit boards know that communities and people are hurt when nonprofits fail. Those silent, unappreciated safety nets do their jobs when called upon.
We are pleased to bring this update on the American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union from Pamela Davis, President of American Nonprofits:
American Nonprofits and Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group have been cooperating to determine how best to improve access to operating credit for 501(c)(3) community-based nonprofit organizations. During 2012, we evaluated various options. During 2013, we investigated the feasibility of creating American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union (ANFCU) (proposed). We accomplished several steps toward creating ANFCU including:
Received preliminary field of membership approval from the federal agency National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to include 501(c)(3) nonprofits, their employees, volunteers and stakeholders
Conducted an extensive survey of likely members and received evidence of strong likely support
Developed a business plan for the start-up and first 4 years of operation
At a meeting in late summer, interested nonprofit sector and credit union leaders expressed strong interest in, and enthusiasm for, ANFCU. Nevertheless, based on many conversations with potential funders and others with knowledge of the sector, it has become clear to us that there is not yet sufficient vision to fund the minimum of $10.5 million necessary to start and capitalize ANFCU at this time.
Toward that end, we plan to continue to move this initiative forward during 2014 with . . .
"I know I got one when I started on the board but . . . "
Here's a new idea: a Bylaws Cheat Sheet. Even if there is a copy of the bylaws handy, it's tedious to have to look over all the legalese when you want an answer to a simple question. So a nice 30 minute Do It Yourself (DIY) project is to create one:
Legal Name of Nonprofit Corporation:
Tax Exempt Determination year:
Maximum and Minimum # of Board Members:
How many years in a term?
Are there term limits? If so, how many terms?
What are the officer positions?
What is the percentage or number for a quorum?
How can the bylaws be changed?
And a Yes/No checklist:
Are board members indemnified?
Is there a procedure for removal of a board member?
Blue Avocado humor columnist Vu Le is taking a brief vacation, so we're bringing you a guest humor column by John Suart of the Non-Profit Humour Blog in Canada:
The board of directors of the Metro Foundation says they don't need to make a donation to the charity's new milk campaign because they "give of their time." The move was in response to the executive director asking board members to make personal donations to the $10 million "Give Milk?" campaign.
"Board members already give to the success of this charity with our many hours spent at meetings and asking others to give milk. That's enough. We don't need to give any of our own homogenized or skim to the campaign," said Flossy The Cow, chair of the board.
Executive director Dibble Brewer made the pitch at last night's board meeting, calling on the board to give a least a couple of ounces of milk or a stick of butter. Brewer made an impassioned plea . . .