Adventures in Fundraising

Photo Credit: Koshyk

I have a confession.

Throughout my career I’ve done a lot work with volunteers, I’ve managed my share of programs and events, I’ve done budgeting and reporting,  I’ve done some marketing and all kinds of connecting.

But I’ve done very little fundraising.

There.  I said it.  I’m a nonprofit blogger without fundraising experience.  It’s not like I know nothing about it.  I studied fundraising and grant writing in undergrad and graduate school.  I keep up with the latest trends, I’ve observed excellent and not-so-good campaigns and I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.  And yet, the total amount of money I’ve raised myself falls well below the $5,000 mark.

That is about to change.

As of today, I’m embarking on a public experiment.  I, a brand new fundraiser, will (with the help of my fellow board members) build and execute a fundrasing plan for Mach 30 Inc–a brand new, soon to be 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to hastening the advancement of humanity into a space-faring civilization.

Why do it in public?

Conventional wisdom says this is a crazy idea.  First of all, announcing one’s lack of fundraising experience is not traditionally viewed as a great way to build one’s reputation as a well-rounded nonprofit writer.  On the other hand, every experienced fundraiser was once in my shoes.  Every nonprofit organization with a ginormous budget and thousands of donors was once just the dream of a group of people who believed the world could be better with a bit of help.

In addition, while learning from experts is valuable, its not the only path.  In fact, some of life’s hardest lessons can only be learned through direct experience or through observing the experience (rather than hearing the advice) of others.  By committing to learning in public, I hope to provide opportunities for you to learn from me and to encourage you to share the experiences of your own fundraising experiences, thus increasing the learning opportunities for us all.

Finally, this decision is based on core values.  Mach 30 is committed to working in the open and sharing our learning.  Our fundraising experiences should not be exempt from that value.

Will you join me?

Whether you are an experienced fundraiser, a beginner, or even just a curious by-stander, there is room for you on this journey.

Here’s what I have in mind.

About once per week* I’ll post an update outlining my thoughts on what’s next, give myself deadlines for completing next steps and report on the previous week’s progress.  When plans go well, you’ll hear about it.  When I crash and burn, I’ll share that too.  When I get stuck, and just don’t do what I promised, I’ll let you know what’s up with that.

My hope is the fundraising experts among us will add to the conversation with advice on what to try next, which traps to avoid, and insight into why experiments might be failing.  If (ok, when) we hit especially difficult subjects I’ll ask some of them to do guest posts to help us get un-stuck.

For those of you who are beginners like me, I hope you will follow along at home.  Use the information you find here and apply it to your work.  Share your plans, achievements and frustrations–either in the comments here, or as part of the discussion over on the Facebook page.  If public announcements aren’t really your style, feel free to e-mail me.

I’m looking forward to our journey together!

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*Yes, I know there is no stated plan for this week.  Let’s just say I’m planning to plan and next week will have the first assignment.

7 thoughts on “Adventures in Fundraising

  1. What an amazing, fabulous and truly inspiring idea! Everyone affiliated with a nonprofit organization should follow your Adventures in Fundraising! There is not a single one of us — board members, volunteers, fundraising professionals and consultants — who will not learn something from your journey.

    Even this post has a few lessons. Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Ask for help when you need it. Share your knowledge. Share your passion. Mistakes are nothing more than opportunities to learn, so you may as well embrace them!

    Oh, and in case it isn’t already clear: Sign me up! I would be honored to join you!

  2. Great idea and best of luck. I have long experience in business communications but spent two years in the “development” (fundraising) department of a larger nonprofit and it was a great experience. Fundraising communications has become a specialty of mine but would like to learn more. I’m in!

    • Welcome Claire!! I’m so pleased you’ve joined us. I also come from a communications background–I’ve just never managed to log any time in the development office. I’m looking forward to learning from your experience.

  3. This is a great idea, especially right now. So many of the old ways aren’t working like they used to, so experimenting seems to be required. I’ll be following along since I am helping a new non-profit too.

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