Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Friday, August 31, 2007

Help wanted: Good pay and benefits

Welcome to the land of fundraising, we need you! Look around. It’s a complex world where people feel isolated, powerless and fearful. From threats of global terrorism to global warming, today’s challenges seem overwhelming. Like you, my heart breaks when I see someone forced to live on the streets or go without health care. There must be a better way, but what is it?

What if we lived in a world were we cared for our neighbors? What if instead of being fearful of differences we embraced them? What if instead of feeling helpless, we lived a life of abundance? That is the gift you give to others when you become a fundraiser. By connecting donors with the gentle joy of giving, you help them discover what it means to be human. In joining with others and giving to those in need, donors recognize they already have everything they need.

You are the Johnny Appleseed of generosity. Years from now you will look back and see all the young children you helped graduate from college, the local park that was once an toxic landfill, and the community center built in the middle of former gang turf and know your life was one well lived.

Here’s my recommended steps for entering the field.
  1. VOLUNTEER: What good cause do you care about? Development offices are always looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out at events. My first fundraising gig was volunteering to write grants for a small arts group. Join a nonprofit board. Even without experience, if you are willing to support fundraising efforts, you’ll be snapped up.

  2. LEARN: Take classes, read books and subscribe to blogs. Research your city to find free or low cost training. The Foundation Center offers free classes in five major U.S. cities. In the San Francisco Bay Area CompassPoint, The CBO Center and USF are great resources. I’m a huge fan of the writing of Kim Klein, Hank Rosso and Kay Sprinkel Grace. Today’s thought leaders are bloggers. If you have time to read only one, make it the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Give and Take, which summarizes all the rest. Start developing your expertise now.

  3. NETWORK: Find the nonprofit trade associations in your town. If you're a regular reader of this blog you know I’m a big fan of Development Executives Roundtable, in fact I'm on the board. Five years ago when I decided to change my career I walked into my first DER meeting, stood up and announced I wanted to become a fundraiser. At that meeting I met people who would become my professional colleagues, career mentors and good friends. Other resource include local branches of the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.

  4. START: We all must begin at the beginning. My first paid job was part-time telefunding. A horrible job really, but learning how to ask for money 30 times a day is a good skill to develop if you wish to build a career in fundraising. Now I’m a successful freelance Fundraising Counsel. Last week I turned down an interview to lead up a $45,000,000 capital campaign. I can tell you most certainly that there are always more development jobs available, and the pay scale is higher, than found in other nonprofit departments. If you can learn to raise money, you will never be without work.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Giving Man

Not going to make it to Burning Man this year? Don't worry, you can still make it to the Giving Carnival. This month's theme is "Predicting the Future of Fundraising." Everyone, bloggers and readers a like, is encouraged to participate. But there's only 6 days left until the September 4th deadline, so don't wait too long to submit your contribution.

For more information on how to participate, or to leave a comment, please see my previous post.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting to know LinkedIn

Turned down an interview last week to lead up a $45 million capital campaign for one of San Francisco’s leading nonprofits. The inquiry came because of my profile on LinkedIn, the Internet's leading professional business networking website. Figuring that 12 million users couldn’t be wrong, I had only created my free account on the service less than a month ago.

Though LinkedIn has a reputation for being dominated by the tech industry, I think perhaps those of us working in nonprofit fundraising can also benefit from its use. One of the core principles of successful fundraising is “you already know everybody you need to know to raise money.” Amongst my colleagues the common joke is you know your campaign is headed for trouble when your Board President suggests soliciting Bill Gates, but hasn’t yet asked any of her friends for support.

But the truth is, if you are a skilled networker, you can actually reach Bill Gates -- or anybody else you want to -- because network theory states that we are all only six degrees of separation from anyone on the planet. The trick is to start from where you are and with whom you know and, and then work you’re way out. Used wisely, LinkedIn can be a practical tool for building these connections. For example, in less than one month, I now have 202 first degree connections, over 4,000 second degree connections, and over 250,000 third degree connections on LinkedIn.

To use LinkedIn to build your own business network, here are a couple of recommended first steps:
  1. Be proactive: Sign up for a free account
    Paid accounts allow subscribers to ask for introductions and send emails to users more widely throughout the LinkedIn community. Yet with a free subscription you have access to the vast majority of the sites networking tools, and is what I recommend. You can always upgrade at a later date.

  2. Invest in learning: Take the tour
    LinkedIn has a lot of depth and features, which can be intimidating at first. Review the site FAQs. A quick Google search for LinkedIn tips can be helpful too; one of my favorites is this short video.

  3. Promote yourself: Keep an up to date profile
    I can’t stress this enough. The more detail you provide the greater number of ways you can be discovered, linked to and receive recommendations. Include not only current and past employment, but also your volunteer and education history. Be sure to include company or personal website or blog URL. Update the provided public profile URL to include your full name to increase search results. Stress your accomplishments and skills in the summary description. Expand your interest area to include searchable key words. Don’t forget to add a formal or informal group affiliations, honors and awards. Think of your LinkedIn page as your online, dynamic resume. My listing now comes up as the third result under a Google search of my name.

  4. Build your network: Invite your friends to join LinkedIn
    The site offers several easy tools for importing your current address book into their system. Basic networking theory would suggest you invite everyone you’ve ever come in contact with, but in a world of increasing email spam, a little grace goes a long way. So my advice would be to certainly extend an invitation to all current users of the system whom you know. Then segment the rest of your address book, sending invitations to join to those to whom you are close or who have demonstrated an interested in business networking. After you’ve built up your personal network and have something more to offer, then send out personalized invitations to others describing the benefits of joining the service.

  5. Spread the love: Give it all away
    Every successful networker knows that if you want to succeed in life, the best way to go about that is by helping others succeed first. Like fundraising, it should be a practice of giving without keeping score. On LinkedIn one of the easiest ways to get started is to recommend your connections. No one wants to receive insincere flattery, but being the recipient of honest, specific praise makes life worth living. For more such tips, read Tim Sanders' Love is the Killer App.

  6. Keep connected: Tell me what you think
    If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a while, I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below; and if you’re a reader of this blog, I’d love to keep connected to you. You can send me an invitation through LinkedIn at gayle[at]gayleroberts[dot]com.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Danger, men at work

Never a dull moment in my neighborhood. Fortunately, nobody was physically hurt. Just a little wounded pride I suspect.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Announcing the September Giving Carnival: Predicting the Future of Fundraising

Hey kids, I’m happy to announce the Giving Carnival is coming to this little blog in September! In addition to the usual line-up of rusty midway rides, fresh-scrubbed 4H kids and queer circus freaks, I’ll be featuring a collection of links to all submitted blog posts and comments on the topic of “Predicting the Future of Fundraising.”

Building off one of this blog’s most popular past articles, I invite you to take a trip with me 10 years into the future. How will the fundraising profession look like a decade from now? How have some of today’s biggest trends such as Internet technology, social entrepreneurialism and globalization changed our jobs? From the tax code to global warming, how has the environment in which we operate changed? Has the much predicted pending leadership crisis occurred, and if so, what has been the impact?

I’ll make sure the popcorn is fresh, but if you can forward this announcement to your friends or post an announcement on your blog, I’d be very grateful. When it comes to the Carnival, the more the merrier. This is a great way for us to build a little community between all the various fundraising and giving blogs and individuals online.

To participate, simply post your predictions to your blog and send me link at gayle[at]gayleroberts[dot]com. If you don’t have a blog, please add your forecast to the comment field below. All submissions will be featured in the September Giving Carnival round-up.

Deadline for submission is Tuesday, September 4th.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fundraising is ...


Thursday, August 16, 2007

What ever writer needs: a room with a view

It may look like this is the second time in five months this small strip of concrete outside my window has been replaced, but that wouldn't really be the correct answer. More accurate to say it's been four times in the last three years.

Now if you find the above snap a little boring -- particularly on a blog that is supposed to be about fundraising -- perhaps you will find the view from my front door of the distant San Francisco Bay more inspiring?


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Giving mindfully

Spent Sunday sitting on my pillow meditating with my fundraising friends again. During the Dharma talk, my mentor shared with us a famous parable about washing dishes by Thich Nhat Hanh. As I sat listening, I found myself wondering what the story would have sounded like if it were about the act of giving? Perhaps it would have gone a little something like this:

There are two ways to give. The first is to give in order to change the world, while the second is give in order to give. If while giving, we think only of the new world which awaits us, thus hurrying get the giving out of the way as if it were a nuisance, then we are not truly “giving.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are giving. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while giving away our time, talent and treasure. If we can’t give mindfully, the chances are we won’t be able to recieve the joys of life either. While living we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the abundance present in our lives. Thus we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Try a spin on the giving carnvial

I get nauseated just thinking about riding a roller coaster, but I enjoyed my ride this week on the Giving Carnival.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Five-year-old fundraising superstar

My five-year-old niece Rylee lives in Marin Country, the home of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Last year, she decided on her own to become a donor to this good cause. Looking under sofa cushions and saving up change given to her Mom, she made her first donation to a nonprofit at the ripe old age of four. Last weekend she took it a step further by becoming a Guide Dogs fundraiser by setting up her own lemonade stand. She raised over a $100 in one afternooon. Words can't express how proud I am of her!

If you would like to offer a few words of encouragement to a budding young fundraiser, please add it to the comments below and I'll make sure she gets a copy. It would mean a lot to both her and me. Thanks.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Oh my gosh, I forgot my birthday!

So it was just one year ago this past July that I started this humble little blog. Big hugs and kisses you who stop by to occasionally read, subscribe or post a comment to these pages! I found this cake just for you, cause your love makes the world go around.

Thought you might be curious to find out which posts have received the most attention over the past year. Here's a top 10 list:
  1. Shift happens: Have you joined the conversation?
  2. The power of many small red envelopes.
  3. A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.
  4. The end of journalism (as you know it).
  5. The gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.
  6. Fundraising for Nonprofit's festive and fiery fourth of July fireworks (and a poem).
  7. Stanford University announces record setting capital campaign.
  8. 5 things to know about direct response response fundraising.
  9. Help the Foundation Center celebrate its 50th birthday.
  10. LonelyGirl15 almost gets it right for poverty campaign.
See a common theme among these posts? No, me neither. But if you'd like to comment on what you like about this blog, and what can be done better, I'd love to hear from you as we move into year two together.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Why do we (I) give?

Big thanks to Holden at GiveWell for the personal invitation to join this week’s Giving Carnival, which is focused on the topic of “What charitable cause are you personally most passionate about?” He wrote, “I've seen the interest you've taken in what motivates others (including me) to give; I'd love to see something about what motivates you.” Well, how could I say “no” to that?

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Tracy Gary of Changemakers speak on the topic of creating a personal giving plan. After her presentation I stood in a long line to buy a copy of her book, Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan. She autographed my book writing, “Be focused and audacious. Give strategically.”

With my trusty highlighter in hand, I finished reading my new book in one weekend. Soon I ordered the companion workbook, which with simple forms and easy exercises provides a good roadmap for creating your own personal giving plan.

I’d like to tell you I finished that plan, but my mia culpa is that have not. Here we have another example of the old truism, “those who give advice would be best served by following it themselves.” So don’t listen to me, listen to Tracy. I know I should.

But if I were to become more focused, audacious and strategic about my giving, the first step would be to ask myself how I currently give of my time, talent and treasure. After a bit of reflection, I find it falls into four levels—from outside to inside—they are friends/family, work, self and spirit.

As a professional fundraiser, I really appreciate it when my friends and family get involved in supporting causes that they care about. Honestly, I love it when they ask me for help, and I’m always willing to contribute a few dollars. The cause may or may not motivate me, but by giving I know I’m honoring our relationship. The size of the gift is usually small, but this past year it includes the most generous single financial gift I’ve given. They range from contributing to my friend Anna’s bike trip to donating money to a fellow fundraiser undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Later this month I’m looking forward to attending a fundraiser for the Square Peg Foundation, organized by my talented 15 year-old-cousin Natalia. Though I’m happy to give financially to these groups or offer advice when asked, I find I rarely donate my time to these causes.

Given the huge demand for professional fundraising support and because there are only so many hours in the day, I find I’m in the enviable position of turning away jobs on a regular basis. This allows me the freedom to partner with organizations whose values reflect my own. Look at my project list and you can get a good sense of what I care about. One of the practices I’ve made regular habit since consulting is to financially donate to these nonprofits, usually before I start any work. In this way, I try to model one of our core teachings, “we can’t ask others until we give first of ourselves.”

As someone who identifies as queer, it is probably not surprising to learn that the majority of my personal giving is within the LGBTQ community. In particular, I donate and volunteer with organizations at the vanguard of the struggle for gender equality and personal liberty, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights or the Transgender Law Center. I’m a former Board member and current legacy circle member of New Leaf, San Francisco’s mental health and outpatient center for LGBTQ individuals and families. Last year I helped lead a volunteer effort to remember the 40th Anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot , San Francisco’s version of the Stonewall Riots, but which happened three years earlier. Internationally, I support the Global Fund for Women, which makes grants to women's groups that work to gain freedom from poverty, violence and discrimination. (Whom I should mention, has most savvy direct mail materials I've ever seen. I'd donated just to be on their mailing list.)

Like many people, I moved to San Francisco over a decade ago looking for a dream, a dream that has unfortunately died in the hearts of many people. One place that I found that it still lives is Glide Memorial Church, a non-denominational, multi-cultural, social justice community rooted in the values of the civil rights movement. For many years they received my largest donation, and over the years I’m sure I’ve given them more money than I have any other group.

But I left Glide a few years ago, looking for a more personal spiritual practice not rooted in Christianity. I’m drawn to the ethics of Buddhism, but as I like to joke with my mentor, my meditation practice is not to meditate. So though I occasionally sit with half-a-dozen various groups in town, I have yet to commit to a particular sangha—a group of people with whom to cultivate wisdom, mindfulness and compassion—that I would call home.

What I am slowly coming to believe is I don’t need to go to a church, temple or any building to practice the precepts in my life. Rather my life, and particularly my work as a fundraiser, is becoming my spiritual practice. For are not those of us working in development called to help people remember the joy of giving, build connections with their neighbors, act on their values and help those in need? From this vantage point, fundraising becomes a sacred activity, one I am grateful to practice in my daily life.

So in fact I do have a sangha, the Development Executives Roundtable (DER). If how we spend our time and money is any indication of what our values are in the world, than DER is at the center of my life right now. Formed over 30 years ago by Hank Rosso, the godfather of professional fundraising, DER is dedicated to growing and enhancing the community of development professionals by providing low cost, accessible learning and networking opportunities directed towards fundraisers at every stage of their careers. The impact of our work, though hard to measure, is quite large. We are a small group of volunteers serving hundreds of nonprofits reaching tens of thousands of clients. So it is not too surprising to discover that last year they received my largest combined donation of time, talent and treasure.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

How to ask for a gift: Successful face-to-face solicitation workshop

Let's face it, many fundraisers, board members and volunteers love to do everything in fundraising except ask for money. Usually it is because they have simply never learned how to actually make an ask. The fear of asking for a gift from a complete stranger--or worse from a close friend--is legitimate. After all, if not handled properly it can put those involved in an uncomfortable position.

If you've ever had fears asking for money--and I know I have--please join me next Friday for what maybe the most important training you'll attend all year. How to Ask for a Gift: Successful Face-to-Face Solicitation is co-sponsored by the Development Executive Roundtable (DER) and will feature national Fundraising Consultant Philip Byrdsong. This luncheon event will be held August 10, noon - 1:30 pm at the San Francisco Foundation Center.

Learn how to prepare for the donor visit, anticipate and meet donor objections. Overcome your own fears, and learn how to ask a potential donor for money. Build your confidence by learning techniques that work. This is one session you'll want to invite your board chair, campaign chair and volunteers to attend with you.

Philip is probably the most value-based Fund Development Consultant I know. With over a decade of experience in the field, he is an active member of the Association for Fundraising Professionals, Northern California Planned Giving Council, National Center for Black Philanthropy and DER, as well as Disabled American Veterans. He has raised funds for United Way, California Peace Action, Central American Resource Center, A Better Chance, NAACP, East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Committee, International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, and others.

If you've been a good boy or girl this year, don't wait for X-mas to be rewarded. Learn how to ask for gifts all year around. For more information and to register, simply visit the DER website.

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