Raising Money in the Non-Profit World

The non-profit world is an world onto itself.  I had been fortunate enough to work in both the profit and non-profit world.  I truly believe the key to success in a non-profit organization is taking a few cues from the profit world.

When I chaired MOUSE the organization had literally been up and running only about 6 months.  The key to our success, success being getting over to the other side where funding is intact annually from foundations etc, was by thinking like a profit organization.  Also, believing in our product and selling it to funders. 

There was a woman on our board who was a true non-profit person.  Her entire career had been spent in that world.  She had a plenty of insight and a lot to offer yet her traditional approach drove me crazy.  When we wanted to do things "differently" she would say but that isn't how it is done.  My answer was always "who writes the rules of how things are done?".  In essence, we made up some of the rules as we went along and I really believe that was our strength.

I am once again working in the non-profit world.  I am about to embark on a freelance project which I am really excited about.  I have always been a fan of the organization I am going to be working with.  They are filling a void and have the potential to be huge.  I also really enjoy the people I will be working with. 

We had a conversation about our plans last week.  It brought me back to the non-profit world in 2 seconds.  The resistance of change, the fear of pushing your funders to give more and try different things, the hesitancy. 

It is the same thing in private schools, which are non-profit organizations.  Capital campaigns, where you raise the big bucks, are built on experts that come in to your school and help your organize the traditional ways of raising money.  I always question why does it have to be traditional?

Each organization has a different mission.  Each organization appeals to a different funder.  Each organization needs a different spin.  Each organization has a different community.  Non-profit organizations have foundations and perhaps large sponsors as their community.  Schools have the students and parents and alumni as their community. 

When you ask for money it is like selling a product.  Spin it.  Appeal to the people who are on the other side of the table.  How do you reel them in to feel part of your organization?  Once people feel that they are part of the process, giving comes easily.  Also, if you can't be sincere and love your organization then don't get involved in asking for cash.  If people can feel your admiration for the organization, they will be moved by that. 

Bottom line, it's all about spin.  Thinking out of the box and tailoring ideas to your community of potential givers at large.  My experience is that people react better and open their wallets to new ideas and passion.  Don't fall back on tradition.  Use it as a guide but be a forward thinker.

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Joanne Wilson Joanne Wilson loves food, books, and music. She lives in New York City. Her husband Fred and children Jessica, Emily, and Josh are bloggers too. More »

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