Fundraising

Posted on in Fundraising

We were facilitating an anniversary planning meeting the other day for an organization that was trying to think about what its 25th anniversary meant to them.

One of their oldest board members wistfully recollected the early days when the board was intimately concerned with producing the organization’s programming. “We were really involved then – now it’s all money and budgets and planning. But back then, we met everyone who came in here…we had our fingers on the pulse.”

What do you do when you have a venerable and valued board member who’s attached to the old days? To the old ways of being a hands-on board member? Someone who’s historically important and a moral bellweather – and who still brings in resources even though they’re getting more and more disenchanted with the new meaning of being a board member?

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Posted on in Fundraising

Development Directors are facilitators. Their work is done through the actions of others: executive directors, board members, funders, donors, volunteers, program staff.

For the most part, the visible components of the development process – sending a letter, having lunch with a prospective donor, approving a grant proposal, writing a check – are prepared for by the development director, but undertaken by those in more external-facing roles.

A development director’s job can be compared to the invisible hand moving the pieces around a chess board. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

What’s the one most powerful indicator of an agency’s ability to make lasting change in its development returns?

I have a surprising answer to that.

You’d think it was the board, or a wealthy founder, or a super-rich patron who takes the agency under his/her wing – but I don’t think those are the factors that lead to real, sustained, institutional fundraising change.

It’s the support and attention of the executive director.

Why do I say that?

Because board members are volunteers.

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A recent New York Times article focused on localized micro-philanthropy – small grants targeted to a specific need in a pinpointed geographic area.

“Bite-sized largesse,” the article called the phenomenon. For example, a $1,000 grant for a volunteer fire department to purchase a device to detect gas leaks.

One might think a grant that narrowly focused is equally limited in impact. But on the contrary, these type of hyper-specific grants provide multiple rewards, as they connect donors to place. By defining the exact impact their contribution will have, a local philanthropist can easily understand how their donation matters.

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A NY Time Business Section article recently described donor-advised funds as “a trendy philanthropic loophole.”

While the article focused on the tax benefits and timing of setting up a donor-advised fund after a tech company goes public, the larger issue – of appearing to be public-spirited without losing control of your money – was only barely mentioned.

Setting up a donor-advised fund is, often but not always, a way to feel that one is doing good – without committing to a single social issue or cause. 

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