Oh, the need is connected to the mission, the mission is connected to the goals ...

Imagine this: At an organization's board meeting, the Executive Director (ED) proudly announces that s/he has accepted a big check from the Playboy Foundation. For the organization's women's empowerment project. It was a long meeting, especially for the ED.

Or (imagine) this: You're visiting the website of a nonprofit whose board you've been asked to join. You can't figure out the organization's mission. The mission statement says one thing but the organization's programs offer something different. You phone a staff person to inquire about the discrepancy, and learn that the current programming is the result of a grant opportunity the organization didn't want to pass up.

These two nonprofits suffer from a common fundraising disorder that I call "making it up as you go along (MIUAYGA)." When so afflicted, an organization allows funding needs and/or opportunities to distort its mission and diminish its capacity to respond to the community needs that it exists to address.

Sometimes this condition occurs simply because staff and board get so bogged down in day-to-day stuff, they forget that good fundraising is proactive and strategic. For these folks, I have developed a tool - a rhyme - to remind them of things that often get overlooked but should be in place before they put a deposit down on the ballroom at the new hotel downtown. 

Remember the song, "Dem Bones"? ("Oh, the toe bone's connected to the foot bone, the foot bone's connected to the ...") My rhyme can be sung to that tune. I call it "Dem Fundraisers." Here it is:

Once a year or so, the board should ask: Who and what?
What's the need, what's the mess we want to clean up?
Please note: It's not a need just 'cuz you say so
(Some data you must show.)

From the need you've found should flow your mission,
So big and long-term, it can feel like wishin'
From the mission flow goals and objectives - with ease -
(Not from some RFPs!)

From goals and objectives come the action steps:
When to break ground, and who plans, who trains, who schleps ...
After action steps, it's time to make a budget
(Be exact - don't fudge it!)

Now you know how much you need to raise and why:
Ten thousand bucks for computers your school must buy 
To supply 20 low-income youth with tools they need
As students to succeed.

Next list who might give your group donations:
People, governments, foundations, corporations...
Now  ... you can ask yourself how to raise the needed cash -
Grants, fees, or gala bash*?

Follow these steps; save yourself lots of trouble
No more planning fundraisers in a bubble
You might even see your revenue double 
Your good work's more fundable!

* There are more choices available than the three mentioned in this rhyme. For example, also available are choices having to do with:  

- source of support/revenue: e.g. individual donors, government, foundations, corporations,    
  earned income, etc.; 
- type of relationship between the nonprofit and revenue source, e.g. donor acquisition, 
  retention, and upgrading, etc.; and
- support transfer mechanisms, e.g. grants, contracts, sponsorships, fees, responses to direct 
  mail, events, etc.

This post is about what your organization should do before it plans its fundraising activities. As for how to plan fundraising, well, that's a topic for another post.


What Are You Doing on Saturday September 24th?

I know what I'll be doing.

I will be at the 2nd Annual Dance Against Domestic Abuse:

    a showcase of
         some of Seattle's most innovative and exciting belly dancers,

        a dance party, and

            an art auction,

              organized to raise money for Thrivers' Action Group (TAG),
                    a local 501 c (3) nonprofit organization
                      dedicated to helping people    
                        understand how to recognize, address, and prevent
                          domestic violence.

Last year's event was a blast! You won't want to miss it. More details:
See you there!


Grants for School/PTA/School Group-Sponsored Gardens

Whole Foods, the Whole Kids Foundation, and FoodCorps (a national service organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity) are collaborating to offer grants and technical assistance for garden projects sponsored by K-12 schools or affiliated 501 (c) (3) organizations.

Awards include:
  • $2000
  • Support and mentoring for one year from FoodCorps
Key dates include:
  • December 31, 2011: Application deadline
  • February 2012: Award notifications begin.
For more information, visit:

Five Fundraisers that Are Fast, Frugal, Fun (and Maybe Funny)

Here are five ideas to try:

Hosting A House Party

With each person contributing under 10 hours and under $10, five volunteers for a small community group held a house party that netted about $5000.

Here’s how: The party host made invitations that she and the other four volunteers each mailed to 10 people. All five made follow-up phone calls to invitees to encourage their support of the event; many made reminder calls as well. Each volunteer brought an appetizer, dessert or beverage to the party.  A community leader served as a guest speaker, and with the host, made a brief request for donations, while the others passed donation baskets and envelopes. After, they sent personalized thank you notes to donors.

Note: Though finding a guest speaker helped draw people to this event, it is not necessary to successful turnout. In my experience, attendance at house parties depends more on how interesting or entertaining the event’s program is, and how diligently the “inviters” follow up personally (e.g., face-to-face or by phone) with the invitees. 

Additional information about throwing house parties can be found online, and in fundraising books and articles.

Gathering the silent auction items and raffle prizes you already have:

The board of a small community nonprofit hatched a last-minute plan to hold a silent auction at their open house, which was on the next day. They each gathered gifts they had received, but had not opened and did not intend to use. These would be their auction items. Before the open house, they outfitted a six-foot long table with a pretty tablecloth, the auction items, and bid sheets they had created. By the end of the event, a couple of hours later, they had raised over $1000.

What if you could collect your:
·         Unused holiday, wedding, shower, graduation, and other gifts,
·         Must-have purchases that you forgot about after buying them…

And what if you could collect similar unused items from:
·         Family members,
·         Neighbors,
·         Friends,
·         Other volunteers,
·         Newsletter recipients…

And what if you could use the collected items for an online fundraiser auction?

Or a silent auction (can be especially fruitful when it's before the holidays so that shoppers can buy holiday gifts) at places or events like:

· Schools (e.g. silent auction in the hallways/cafeteria)
· Benefit events?
· Performances?
· Your place of worship, after the weekly service?

Raffles for revelry as well as revenue

Here’s an example of how to hold a raffle when you’re short on raffle prizes: In conjunction with their singles’ benefit dance, a community group held an “evil ex” raffle. They asked benefit invitees to donate unwanted gifts from ex-girlfriends/boyfriends for use as raffle prizes. The array of items that materialized not only included great prizes (e.g. jewelry, art), but also served as a much-enjoyed form of entertainment. You can produce similar raffles with holiday gifts, wedding gifts, etc.

Note: Check your state gambling commission’s regulations before planning a raffle.

Reusing and recycling: Or, What do ink cartridges, flower bulbs and dental crowns have in common?

Here are examples of things you can turn into funds for your organization:

· Ink Cartridges that you collect at home and work; from friends, family, etc. and redeem for cash 

· Dental crowns: I know of a dentist who saves unwanted crowns after she extracts them, sells them to a refinery, and donates the proceeds to charity.

· Garden clippings: Try selling your extra bulbs, starts, flowers, etc. at places/events where large groups of people gather (e.g. your school, place of worship, neighborhood festival). Don’t forget to solicit plant starts from neighbors and other gardeners who might support your cause.

What else could you (and your fellow fundraisers) use to raise revenue? Old books (to sell to used book stores)? Old clothes (for consignment)?
Building your fundraiser around your organization's strengths, assets, resources, and opportunities

Remember the singles’ raffle? The party planners expected over 100 guests who were very supportive of their organization’s cause - and who also had very little discretionary income. Their guests’ financial limitations did not deter the planners from devising a way to put all that support to good use. Instead, they came up with the raffle idea as a way for cash-strapped guests to contribute to their cause.