by Janine Vanderburg, JVA Consulting
First, a word on my Launch Pad contest idea—training boomers with sales backgrounds as nonprofit fundraisers—which is one of 25 finalists. If this idea is implemented, nonprofit leaders would get to spend their time on what they love the most—community- and society-changing work—and people who are great at “closing the deal” can bring the funding in. If you’re on board, you can vote now by going to: http://launchpad.encore.org/meet-Janine
If you’d like to know more about my thinking, read on.
Last week, I asked a group of over 20 people gathered for one of our JVA Consulting trainings: “How many of you love fundraising?” Two hands went up.
Next question: “How many of you are passionate about your organization’s mission?” All hands rose.
And I said what I usually say: “Well, I trust that by the end of this two-day session, you will feel more enthusiastic and energetic about fundraising, etc., etc.” And most reported at the end of the two-day session that they did.
But what I came away from that with was this breathtaking statistic: That less than 10 percent of people whose primarily responsibility within their organizations is fundraising were excited about the job!
While I know one can’t draw broad conclusions from such a small sample size, as Oprah says, what I know for sure is this: In my over 30 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector with all sizes and types of organizations focused on community and social change, I have met thousands of people who are passionate about their communities and making their world a better place. A handful of them are passionate about fundraising; many end up doing it as a “necessary evil.”
We train individuals how to fundraise, ask them to mobilize their board members and volunteers to fundraise, and train board members and volunteers how to ask for money. A handful of them truly enjoy fundraising—but most of them got involved with the nonprofit because they really cared about the issue the nonprofit was addressing, not because they wanted to raise funds. So then we all do trainings on how to get boards to fundraise, everyone is frustrated, and the cycle goes on. People do it—some more effectively than others, but we are locked in an essential business model that requires a lot of energy to push people to do something they are not essentially passionate about.
So imagine if we thought differently. A new scenario. One in which most people involved in addressing an issue, whether on a local, regional, or national scale could focus on their areas of strengths in accomplishing a mission, whether it’s ending hunger, education reform, or some other pressing issue. My thinking on this is very much influenced by the Strengths movement outlined in the book Go Put Your Strengths to Work, which, at its essence, holds that “a person or organization will excel only by amplifying strengths, never by simply fixing weaknesses.” (Buckingham, 2007).
And so for the many organizations with staff for whom fundraising is not a core strength, does that mean that the organization should not exist? That its mission-related work is not important?
Or could they look to another pool of people as potential fundraisers, people whose natural strengths and talents led them to sales and marketing positions throughout their careers. People for whom asking for a sale, for money, is as natural as breathing. Who have spent lifetimes articulating the benefits of products that have far fewer interesting characteristics than nonprofit work.
That’s the essence of my idea—to train people who already have the natural talent, skills, backgrounds in sales to effectively transfer the skills to nonprofit fundraising. In so doing, we are creating “encore careers” for older adults who may have been downsized and creating a pool of people that nonprofits, especially those that have small (sometimes one person) fundraising offices, can draw on to raise the money for their mission-related work.
If you—as a nonprofit leader—believe this approach could benefit your nonprofit, I’d appreciate your vote in the Launch Pad contest. You can vote once every 24 hours from now through February 25.
To vote, go to: http://launchpad.encore.org/meet-Janine