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.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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