As President & CEO of our fundraising consulting firm working with nonprofits nationally, I often get asked how I got involved in fundraising. I’ve been working with nonprofits for the last 24 years in varying capacities to assist organizations in meeting their missions. I’ve found the fundraising profession to be the one area that I can give back in a way that I never imagined possible, having worked with hundreds of nonprofits the past 12 years through fundraising consulting. Here’s my story about my first thoughts around a career and then finding the right resources to grow my career.
Mrs. Ballinger in my first grade class at Eugene Field Elementary School in Charleston, Missouri asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Now I really can’t remember if I said a doctor, teacher, fireman or farmer. What I didn’t’ say was “a fundraiser!”
It took a while to find what I wanted to do. First, I worked for my Governor in his office in our state capitol. After that, I went to work for a major corporation in St. Louis and gave $3,500,000 away each year for three years. After tiring of that, I decided to flip which side of the desk I was sitting on and try my hand at fundraising for Evangelical Children’s Home, a nonprofit organization providing residential treatment for girls and boys who’ve been abused, abandoned and neglected.
In 1988, 21 years after Mrs. Ballinger’s question, I began a job which would finally answer her question.
I was back in my hometown recently speaking with a local nonprofit organization – Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center. I was asked to address fundraising for this organization, and I started by asking “who likes to ask for money?” This is a question I’ve asked hundreds of times as a consultant. Unbelievably, most of the time in a room of fundraising professionals, only about half raise their hand. That day, between staff and Board members, all the staff raised their hands.
When I started with Evangelical Children’s Home there were scant organizations providing education and ongoing training on making the request. I asked senior level fundraising professionals I knew for advice. I sought out fundraising consultants for guidance. And, I got involved in professional fundraising organizations.
Today, learning opportunities are plentiful. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) offers hundreds if not thousands of educational and training sessions across the country through their chapters and conferences. The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University offers courses and career tracks for professionals on almost every nonprofit topic imaginable. And locally in communities where we serve as fundraising counsel, I comb through newspapers and websites to locate resources for our clients. For instance, in Greater Kansas City we have a wonderful resource, Nonprofit Connect, which serves the 6,500 nonprofits that file a 990 each year with the IRS.
As you look for resources to build your career, here are a few pointers that I adopted to help me.
- First, model behavior that you see in someone you admire. Take the good and accentuate it and discard what you don’t like.
- Two, seek out mentors who are fundraising colleagues, ask for their help and keep close to them. They are/were my best sources for me to throw out an idea and have them react. I wasn’t afraid to be on the “edge” with ideas – don’t you be either.
- Three, ask your volunteers and donors what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Truly seek their advice. Challenge them when you think it needs challenging. Thank them and enhance what’s worked. Give the credit to others. If you’re successful, you’ll get plenty of credit.
- Use educational resources that are available to you locally, regionally and nationally to further your knowledge and understanding of what you need for your organization.
- Finally, use that information and get out from behind your desk; out of your office; go call on donors; cultivate prospects. Double up your efforts. In the long-run these will help your organization.
Oh, and I didn’t say I wanted to be a fundraiser to Mrs. Ballinger’s question. She’s long passed away now, but if I could talk with her, I’d say I became a fundraiser and it’s been the most rewarding and the best job and career I could have ever chosen.
(PLEASE NOTE: For resources on education and training go to these websites for more information: AFP International, Center on Philanthropy, or. . . search on the web locally under fundraising training, fundraising education, etc.)
Hospitals Optimistic About Fundraising in 2012
Mary Ellen Clark
Senior Vice President
Editors note: Jeffrey Byrne & Associates, Inc. is a member of The Giving Institute (a member of the Nonprofit Research Collaborative) and a contributor to the annual Giving USA Report which is researched and written by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
Fundraising in hospitals and healthcare organizations in 2011 mimicked that of 2003 according to the Nonprofit Fundraising Study released this month by a collaborative group and reported by the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy*. The nation is in a “slow recovery” from a recession much like that in 2003, however; organizations remain optimistic about fundraising potential in 2012.
Following previous recessions, fundraisers have seen that charitable giving follows the broader economy, with a lag of up to a year. Concerns centered on (1) slow economic growth; (2) potential economic crises; and (3) their impact on donors’ capacity and interest in charitable giving. Despite these concerns, hospitals historically turn to their foundations to bridge the gap in funding a variety of needs.
Findings specifically showed that charitable receipts increased at more than half of the study’s 1,600 responding organizations, and nearly 60% of the organizations met their 2011 fundraising goals. Those most successful attributed this to an emphasis on diverse fundraising approaches including annual fund, special events, planned giving and campaigns. Few received more than 25 percent of their funds from any one area of fundraising. Engaging board members with individualized plans for assisting in solicitations was yet another strategy of the most successful.
Healthcare fundraising saw improved fundraising efforts in physician giving and in grateful patient programs in 2011. Physician giving has been more difficult to track during the past few years, though this is an area that is on the rise for most healthcare foundations. Engaging physicians on boards and committees, including them in facility master planning and employment of more physicians are sited as some of the reasons for improved giving from this group. Larger hospitals believe that increased partnerships between physician practices and hospital administration offer more opportunities for physicians to feel a part of decision making. Still others report that their medical staff fundraising has reduced out of fear of the effects of healthcare reform. It is important as fundraisers that we appeal to the physicians’ sense of the community.
Grateful patient programs have evolved from the often used and costly direct mail appeal to many diverse approaches. These may include newsletter articles featuring a patient or family member who had a positive experience, or may find a grateful patient chairing your annual fund campaign; include a testimonial on your website’s homepage or in the patient discharge information. Never underestimate the effectiveness of story-telling.
While the final decisions about healthcare reform remain uncertain, fund requests and pressure to increase fundraising goals continues to mount in foundation offices. More than 70 percent of the organizations responding to the above study expect to increase fundraising in 2012. A mix in fundraising approaches and building fundraising programs that incorporate short-term programs such as annual fund and long-term efforts like planned giving and campaigns appear to be the most hopeful visions for future success.
1The Nonprofit Research Collaborative is made up of AFP, Blackbaud, Inc., Campbell Rinker, The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Convio, Giving USA Foundation, and The National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute.
Editors note: Jeffrey Byrne and Associates is a member of The Giving Institute and a proud sponsor of the annual “Giving USA Report” by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.