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Fundraising Collaboration – in “Real Life”

By Tom Watson on January 9, 2009No Comment

Kara embarked on this search imagining the impact she personally could have in changing the world. After submitting 127 resumes, waiting 6 months, searching online, and pulling out all the stops networking, she finally helped a regional nonprofit food bank recognize that her corporate skills were directly applicable to work in the nonprofit sector. 

Looking forward to contributing immediately to her new nonprofit team – a staff of four – she arrived on her first day full of energy and enthusiasm. Interestingly, Kara was the only person responsible for raising funds on this small staff. Kara’s first task:  Figure out how to raise $10,000 in the next two months for a critical program – without a budget.
In her corporate sector job, Kara had been recognized for her creative approaches to problem-solving. So, she decided to apply those same skills. Now, how would she raise $10,000 in the next two months without spending any money?

She had it! Collaborate & Partner! She was sure that would work. After all, she had heard MANY people in the nonprofit sector use those same words – “collaborate,” “partner.”

Approach #1:

Kara decided that she would reach out to another well-respected nonprofit in their community – the local Animal Shelter. She phoned the development director Jack and proposed that they discuss ways for both organizations to raise the funds they needed. Jack’s response:  “Times are tough, and we need all the money we can get at this point.  We’re not interested in dividing funds in any way. So, no – I don’t think we’re interested in taking this discussion any further.” Kara was shocked.  Just plain “No!” That wasn’t what she was expecting.

Approach #2:

Undaunted, Kara moved on to the next organization.  She was convinced it was just finding the “right fit” between her organization and another. So, she decided to approach Jan, the executive director of a regional conservation organization with the concept of partnering on a fundraising campaign. “Well, we’re not sure. That’s not the way we usually do things in the nonprofit world. I’ve never heard of nonprofit organizations going together on a fundraising campaign and both organizations being successful in it.” Kara was disappointed.  What happened to innovation?

Approach #3: 

A little weary, Kara decided to approach one more organization. But which one? Hoping that adventure is a trait of youth, Kara approached the volunteer director of the local Youth Soccer League (“YSL”). “Well, we’re not sure … but why not?  We can only gain. Tell us what you need.” 

Kara celebrated for a few moments. Then, she quickly got to work on a plan.  But how do a Youth Soccer League and a Food bank join together for a fundraiser?

Then, Kara performed an assessment and identified the strengths and opportunities of each of the organizations.  Here’s what she determined:
YSL Strengths/Opportunities -

  • 300 student athletes
  • Barbara Smith, a parent who recently wrote a best-selling book on Business Management Skills

Food bank Strengths/Opportunities -

  • 2,500 donors in their database
  • Membership in the Regional Chamber of Commerce

Kara then proposed the following:

**Campaign:  Barbara Smith would donate six hours of her time and her expertise to do a Business Management workshop.  Participants will pay $497 for the one-day workshop, which the Food bank and YSL will split evenly. 
**Registration:  A group of YSL students at the direction of the Food bank’s IT person will create a website for registration. 
**Publicity:  The materials – for the event will indicate that the net proceeds from the event will be donated to the Food bank and YSL.  The Food bank and YSL will each send out a series of email announcements/invites to their database of donors and parents information on the workshop.  Additionally, as a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, the Food bank will publicize the workshop to all of the local businesses through the weekly enewsletter (members are able to post announcements for free). 
**Logistics:  The Food bank will access to free meeting space through the local Chamber.  The Food bank also will secure sponsorship from a local print shop to print all materials and receive special recognition.

Whew. It took some energy, but Kara had come up with a solid plan. She proposed it to the Director of YSL – he took one look and was impressed.  In reality, neither the YSL nor the Food bank were (1) bearing all the risk and (2) providing all the resources or effort.  This was a great deal! And, neither of the organizations could do something like this alone. 

With clear objectives and a plan, both YSL and Kara got to work. Although there were a couple of bumps in the road (like coordinating schedules and meeting space), the workshop was a HUGE success! They spent about a month and a half organizing the event, and in total that one day they raised over $24,000.

Kara accomplished her goal.  She had raised over $12,000 for the Food bank’s program within the 2 month time frame – and she had done it without a budget. As she reflected, she realized her initial impression of the nonprofit sector was that collaboration would be easy wasn’t the sector based on the concepts of sharing and working toward the collective good?

In reality, it seemed that the general rule was the Collaboration is a word to be used rather than an principle to be practiced. Yet, the Food bank and YSL had achieved tremendous results through actually working together. 

It was Collaboration In Real Life.

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