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04/17/2014 at 11:00 AM
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08/28/2014 at 11:00 AM
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 followed a 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!
* Discounts and free stuff for the next Blue Avocado Bonus Issue: Got a truly unusual and nationally accesible opportunity our 64,000 readers would love? Let us know! Email Susan Sanow susan at blueavocado dot org.
* 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.
Conventional fundraising advice -
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.
2. Speed limits patrolled by aircraft . . .
"What does it say in the bylaws?"
"Does anyone have a copy of the bylaws?"
"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:
Are board members indemnified?
Is there a procedure for removal of a board member?
See also in Blue Avocado:
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 . . .
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:
1) Received preliminary field of membership approval from NCUA to include 501(c)(3) nonprofits, their employees, volunteers and stakeholders
2) Conducted an extensive survey of likely members and received evidence of strong likely support
3) 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...
American Nonprofits was formed by a group of nonprofit sector leaders with a $100,000 grant from Nonprofits’ Insurance Alliance of California (NIAC). American Nonprofits will serve as a platform to address issues of finance, credit, strategy, and accountability. As a membership organization that welcomes both nonprofit organizations and individuals, we occupy the intersection of finance and strategy. We are a platform through which members can convene local and national discussions, initiate solutions, and collectively improve nonprofit finance (e.g. the credit union project below).
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Do you think nonprofits deserve fair access to credit and loans?
Do you want to move money from Wall Street and support nonprofits?
Do you want to discuss and improve nonprofit strategy and finance?
Does it annoy you that big banks make profits from nonprofit customers?
We are forming a credit union specifically for the nonprofit community.
To view the draft business plan for the proposed credit union: Draft Business Plan
The founding of American Nonprofits as well as the credit union project is possible thanks to a $100,000 grant from Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group, and an initial $25,000 grant from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. American Nonprofits is currently seeking $10.5M in support of formation and capitalization of American Nonprofits Federal Credit Union. Please contact Pamela Davis to find out more about this campaign.
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