By Rob Meiksins, CEO
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it from Milwaukee nonprofit executives, and every time I hear it I cringe. “We’re in financial trouble,” they say. “I’m going to have to fix things: I’ll hire a grant writer.” Argh! as Charlie Brown used to say. Grant writers are wonderful people and do important work. But generating income is about far more than putting words on a piece of paper or website.
Here’s another one: “My board isn’t doing enough.” This is shorthand for: “We’re in financial trouble and I need my board to raise funds now.” That executive has probably never involved the board in fundraising but expects that, magically, the directors will ride in on their white horses and save the day.
One more cringe moment. “I need to find an angel donor. You know, that millionaire next door that no one ever knew had a lot of money.” So you're telling me that millionaire next door has never had any contact with your organization—but maybe, just maybe, he’s interested in your cause? Cringe.
It’s not that fund development for Milwaukee nonprofits is impossible—it’s just that there are many misconceptions about how to do it that run rampant in our sector. To bust those myths and teach nonprofits viable fund development strategies, UW Parkside has developed a Fund Development Certificate program that will be offered here at the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.
3 Fund Development Myths Debunked
Going back to our cringe moments above, here are three fund development myths, along with the facts that contradict them. This is the kind of information that Milwaukee nonprofit executives and fund development staff will learn in the new fund development certificate program:
Myth #1: Hiring a grant writer will solve your funding crisis.
A report from the Center for Charitable Statistics points out that almost half of funding for nonprofits comes from fees for services and goods. Private contributions only account for 13.3% of income for nonprofits. To really fix a funding crisis, the nonprofit executive needs to pay attention to earned revenue. Of course many people say there’s nothing unearned about charitable giving: all donations are earned through very hard work. However, according to Giving USA, 62% of all gifts to nonprofits in 2015 were from individuals. People. Not foundations or corporations. Putting those statistics together, a grant writer pursuing foundation and corporate giving is going after less than 6% of nonprofit funding.
Myth #2: Your board can magically raise funds instantaneously.
There is a cycle of fund raising that involves identifying donors, cultivating them, asking for a gift, thanking them for the gift, involving them in the organization, and on and on. You have to diligently establish a culture of philanthropy at your organization, and that takes time and energy. So start now, before it's a crisis.
Myth #3: There’s a millionaire next door waiting to give you lots of money.
By definition, a prospect—according to Andy Robinson—is a person who has the capacity to give, has the habit of giving, and knows about you. So that millionaire next door may have the capacity to give, but does she like to make donations? If not, you’re out of luck. If she likes to give, it is really unlikely that she’ll give to you if she knows nothing about what you do, so you are out of luck again. The old adage is that it takes seven contacts to get the gift. Simply put, it takes work. Work to find the donor, work to learn about them, and work to get them to want to give.
Who Is the Fund Development Certificate Program For?
The point of the fund development curriculum we’re offering this fall is to help nonprofit staff develop the good habits required for effective fund development. This is not a class for the desperate, but for people who want to take fund development seriously and establish a sustainable culture of philanthropy at their organization.
There was a strong team that came together at UW Parkside to design this curriculum. We wanted it to be engaging, interactive, intense, and comprehensive. We wanted to be able to say that our graduates know how to do fund development the right way. We hoped that they would learn about the work that’s involved, but also about the rewards. Knowing that you’ve helped connect a donor to a cause they’re excited about and want to have an impact on is a great feeling. Knowing you’ve helped a cause connect to a donor who can provide some of the resources needed to deliver on the mission is equally amazing.
If this is what you want to do or are being asked to do for your organization, I encourage you enroll in the fund development certificate program.
Want to learn more? Register for a free presentation and Q & A session on the Fund Development Certificate Program, July 13 at 12 noon at NPC, 2819 W. Highland Ave., Milwaukee, WI.