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What's So Scary About Fundraising?

by Kelly Rowan
follow me on Twitter: @kellykay30

As emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector, a solid grasp of fundraising basics serves us and our organizations well, no matter our department or role. But like so many things that are crucial, fundraising isn’t always appealing. So…why is fundraising so scary? What do we really need to understand about philanthropy’s role in our organizations? How can we build our skills and experience related to fundraising?

A group of young nonprofit professionals gathered to explore these questions for the February Emerging Leaders Networking Lunch. Attendees shared lots of great questions, resources, and insights related to fundraising. Here are some highlights, with a generous dose of my own commentary.

Why is fundraising so scary?

My short answer: sometimes we are asked to “do” fundraising without the resources and support we need to be successful. Fortunately, these are challenges that young nonprofit professionals, equipped with a combination of resourcefulness and strong networks, are ready to overcome.

I cringe to think of the unappealing traits sometimes attributed to fundraisers: manipulative, slick, and seeing donors as dollar signs rather than organizations’ closest friends who hope to make a difference in a cause they care about. One of the best ways to put these stereotypes to rest is to dig in and think about the role of philanthropy in our organizations.

Why is it important to understand the role of philanthropy in our organizations?

By spearheading conversations with our coworkers about what role philanthropy plays in our organizations, we help break down silos and improve our organizational culture. Building relationships in this broad context can pave the way for better interactions down the road. For example, when development needs financial information for a grant report or when programming comes up with great “fund-a-need” suggestions, it pays to have had these conversations ahead of time.

Understanding how the work we do each day is tied to fundraising is as critical as understanding how it is tied to our nonprofits’ missions, values, and strategic goals. It’s tough to make time to talk about the role of philanthropy in our organizations, but those conversations can be grounding, providing each person with perspective and context to ultimately improve our organizations’ effectiveness.

How can we build our skills and experience related to fundraising?

With so many books, blogs, workshops, and websites on fundraising, I’ll highlight the CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) reading list, as well as the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionalsfor networking and professional development.

We can also gain invaluable insights on fundraising by experiencing both sides of the philanthropic relationship. Consider joining a giving circle, like Fourth Generation, or look into the Headwaters Foundation’s Social Justice Leadership Institute.

So, food for thought? I hope so. Whether you are consumed with fundraising responsibilities in your current role or you haven’t given fund development much thought, I hope that you see the value in contributing to a culture of philanthropy at your nonprofit.

Seek out other young professionals who are working and/or interested in fundraising to continue these conversations. You can even filter our YNPN-TC member directory to help you make connections, learn together through good conversation, and build your support network.

What other key issues related to development should young professionals be paying attention to?

What additional resources do you recommend for those who are interested in building their fundraising skills?

 


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