In Defense of Fundraising
This is planned as the first in a series of (admittedly inexperienced and very opinionated) posts on fundraising for small grassroots groups. If I'm wrong please let me know. I welcome comments. Also, I apologize in advance to my boss Harvey and his company for accidentally stealing any of his or anyone else's ideas. This stuff is in the air so much at work that I forget where it originally came from sometimes.
Fundraising is vital to the existence of any organization. Except perhaps for the one-person "organization" that subsists on that one person's paycheque. Most organizations exist to get real work done – and that requires money.
Money pays for staff, printing, advertising, stamps, events, etc, etc. Money is like the food of an organization. With enough food, combined with exercise and intelligence, the organization will grow strong and get things done. Without it, the organization will whither and die.
Money comes from a few places. The big ones are grants, large single gifts, gifts in wills, and from regular people like you and me. Notice that three out of the four are really gifts from people. Really there are two main sources of money: institutions and people.
The nice thing about institutions? They are big and often have a lot of money to give away.
The nice thing about people? They are loyal.
Asking people for money is fundamental to your organization.
I know of a particular organization that relied heavily on a particular grant that it got yearly for an event that they put on. The grant gave them the money to hire an organizer to put the whole event together, year after year.
But then the economy tanked and the grant dried up. The government needed the money for other programs, so the organization that had relied on that money had to radically shrink their event.
These sorts of things happen. But, if they had been consistently asking their supporters for money, they could possibly have raised enough money to cover the amount of that grant. They were too reluctant to ask for money.
Many small organizations do this. They are afraid (or embarrassed) to ask people for donations. (I'll get into the particulars of how they ask for money another time.) They may only ask for money once a year so that they won't bother their donors. Or they may only ask for a certain small amount for membership.
I'm not sure if they feel like their work isn't important, that they are afraid people won't want to support it, or if it really is just embarrassment about asking for money.
Whatever it is, it doesn't work.
If I am supporter of your organization, I know that you need money. But I don't wake up each morning and think "does such-and-such organization need money from me today?" Nope. You do me a service by asking me for money. You give me an opportunity to help, to contribute. Your organization exists to help me contribute to the mission of your organization.
Can you think of any reasonably large or successful organization that doesn't raise money? I'm prepared to be wrong about this, but I'm certain the answer is "no."
So, instead of sending that one email that ever-so-softly asks me to think about possibly considering the idea of making a small show of support, send out 6 or more emails this year asking me to donate $20, $50, or $100 right now to help change the world.
Because I will take it personally if you don't care enough to ask for my money.