Fundraising Decisions and Transparent Engagement

You Choose - Happy? or Scared?As I noted in yesterday’s post, Dimitri’s and my decision to immediately begin running Creating the Future full time means we need to start fundraising, and fast!   (Truth is we probably needed to start fundraising months ago, but starting now will just have to do…)

And so, given that it’s the end of the year, it seems only logical to do a year-end appeal. Which means asking for your wisdom on a) whether it’s a good idea to do that appeal, and b) what to emphasize if we do.

Transparency and Engagement
Asking these questions goes far deeper than just learning from the immense wisdom among our readers.  It is about engaging discussion about the thing we all seem to fear most: money.

Given our vow to transparently engage the world in Creating the Future’s decisions, it feels like there is no more important place to prove that is possible than with our fundraising efforts. Fundraising is where most organizations feel they must close ranks, keeping stuff under wraps, being as competitive as possible.

As we develop our programs and consider fundraising to support those programs, we find ourselves repeatedly asking, “What if that is simply not true? What if openly engaging in fundraising decisions actually builds a stronger organization – not just raising more money, but providing critical information we might not otherwise have (or might only find out the hard way…)?”

And so this post will be a first step in that endeavor. As we focus on fundraising throughout 2011, we will be back to ask deeper questions about both our plans for finding start-up funding and our plan for ongoing operating funds.

Helping Us Figure Out Just This Campaign
For now, we have 2 questions we hope you will help us figure out.

  1. This seems obvious to us, but that makes us wonder if there is something we’re missing: Is there any reason NOT to do a Year-End appeal?
  2. Stemming from that first question, If we do the appeal, what should we emphasize in that appeal?

We know what we feel was valuable this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is what others feel was valuable. And what better group to ask than those who participated in the work we did this year!?

We have already asked the brilliant minds who have graduated from our immersion courses. Here is just some of what they told us:

  • The Immersion Course was so life changing, several people took it twice – and found even more value the 2nd time!
  • Supportive community of peers, coaching each other and thinking things through together.
  • #NPCons chat – a surprise to one individual who marveled at the impact of that chat!
  • Watching Clients Create Change – and FAST!
  • Dimitri and my modeling what is possible – at the blog, among our graduate community, and just by doing the work of Creating the Future!

Now it’s your turn.

• As you look over the list of what we accomplished for the sector this year, what parts of that work made the biggest difference for you? And what was that difference?

• What parts of the work we are doing is the most exciting to you?  What parts do you think we should celebrate?

• What should we emphasize as we head out to raise funds?

And is there any reason at all not to do a year-end appeal? What do you think?

Photo Info: Choose Your Mood (Chinese masks at Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City)

6 Responses to Fundraising Decisions and Transparent Engagement

  1. Nope. No reason to NOT do an annual appeal and every reason TO do one (

    Focus on reaching out to participants to answer your first two questions:

    1. As you look over the list of what we accomplished for the sector this year, what parts of that work made the biggest difference for you? And what was that difference?

    2. What parts of the work we are doing is the most exciting to you? What parts do you think we should celebrate?

    The answers will tell you what to emphasize – and will help to explain exactly what you’re doing to potential donors.

    You need to move quickly.

  2. I opened twelve annual appeal requests today. I didn’t really look at them (typically 3 pages each.) And the reason I opened them is not because any of them promised anything interesting (ah, how I long for the any sign of real ink!) but because I was curious to see, after reading your post, if any of them were personally signed or addressed, were anything other than routine mailings. Nary a one. Just a last gasp to the year.

    So I’d suggest that whatever you send out – and I know this is so time intensive – don’t just add to the paper pile. It should be brief, and should start out focusing in some way on who the recipient is, have some personal feeling, and include one of your real signatures. I am eager to read anything that appears to have been somehow generated by a human who knows I’m human.

    I guess I’d really like to know, too, what this organization’s financial needs are. Is this prurience? I don’t think so. I don’t know what you need.

    And what could be more interesting than sending out a variation of this very post, asking for an opinion, for some response? The transparency of what you are doing is riveting. I would have read that letter!

  3. Hmmm – ask the questions, rather than give the answers. Liking that!

    As for our $$ needs, I’m hoping to blog that in the next few days. Thinking aloud, we have three levels of financial goals, ALL of which we are still in the process of budgeting. (Having just made the decision to dive into the deep end a few weeks ago, and then having the idea for a year-end appeal strike us just a few days ago, we are madly playing catch-up!)

    First, the “real” needs – start-up funds to hire staff and develop/build programs quickly, to hit the ground running.

    Second we’ll have interim needs, covering expenses until we get that start-up funding. Fees from current programs will cover a small portion of those expenses, but we’re in a Catch-22 there – we need to build out the range of programs that have the potential to generate those revenues!

    Lastly, we have the specific goal of the year-end appeal. We’re hoping the appeal will generate at least 2 months of the interim budget (and hopefully more!). Or at least that’s what we’re thinking at this stage – budgeting will happen in the next several days and we’ll have better answers!

    Long answer to say, “It’s coming.” I keep reminding myself that we hadn’t even planned to do an appeal until the idea hit several days ago. Now that folks are encouraging us to do so (both here and in private responses), we’re peddling as fast as we can to make it happen!

    Thanks for helping us think this through, Alexandra.

    And many thanks also to Pam, who helped me think a lot of this through on the phone after posting her comment. You guys are amazing!!

  4. HG asks: Is there any reason NOT to do a Year-End appeal?

    Part of me says you have to because of the corporate tendency to commit their charitable budget first thing. If you don’t, you likely greatly narrow down potential funding sources.

    Part of me says that if you really truly believe that tax planning is the reason people give to YOU instead of someone else, then do one.

    BUT (and this is a, uh, big but)…that speaks directly to the issue of your entire organizational remake and what you are challenging organizations such as Friends of the Buggy Whip to do in order to step up their game by a dimension (or 10).

    I think you have to ask yourself this: If we are going to rebuild the charitable world, are we going to start doing so by funding it the same way that Friends of the Woolly Mammoth (et al) would do it?

    And if so, how is that congruent with the mandates/mindset of Pollyanna and Creating the Future?

    PS: Alexandra hit the nail on the head re: mailings. Most of the mailings I get year-round are so poorly done (read: horribly impersonal and vague) that they rarely make it home from the post office. I wouldnt expect you to mail something like that:)

  5. Hildy,
    I have been wanting to get to this post to comment since you first wrote it…cloning is the ONLY answer!

    I don’t know if I will be answering exactly what you are answering but for me, what you have provided is vision-a new way of looking at/defining/explaining things. I am involved in an exciting project right now and at a meeting the other night we were attempting to create a mission statement. As we struggled I googled Hildy Gottlieb Vision Mission and viola! I got exactly what I needed to guide the process.

    There is a whole lot of noise in the world, and that includes the CBO sector. But for me, somehow, what you say, resonates. It is a delightful combination of idealism, realism, and some other intangibles-sort of the best of everything, and provides me with the struture I need to find a path forward. I truly can’t imagine the past year if our paths had not crossed!

    Not sure if that is helpful or what you are looking for, but it has been rattling around in my head for awhile!

    Here’s to great success to Creating the Future in the coming year 🙂

  6. Heidi:
    In the “worth waiting for” category, you are rocking my afternoon. It is beyond what I was looking for, and I thank you for sharing it.

    You always make me think, and your comment here has done so again. Can the way we currently fund programs effect greater change? I think the answer in both the big picture systems change AND the day-to-day work is obviously “yes.” Without our having fully developed that framework, though, I’m not sure what it might change TO – another thought process for us to develop collectively and transparently here, for sure!

    I do think it has at least somewhat to do with what Alexandra and Pam suggest – using an appeal to appeal for more than just money – to actually appeal for real, authentic, honest-to-goodness engagement. Engaging people’s wisdom and experience and passion, helping them contribute those greater (i.e. non-financial) gifts to create the world they want.

    You guys always give me so much to think about. Here’s to more of that in 2011!!!!!!!!!!!!