Debunking the Myths of Fundraising
If you’re just starting out, fundraising can seem inaccessible and overwhelming.
Tom Wolf is founder of WolfBrown, a consultancy, and a former lecturer at Harvard University. He authored the book, "How to Connect with Donors and Double the Money You Raise."March 20, 2018
In large part, this is due to widespread myths about what it takes to be a successful fundraiser. In his upcoming Philanthropy University course Introduction to Fundraising, Tom Wolf, veteran fundraiser and author of the book, “How to Connect with Donors and Double the Money You Raise,” identifies seven of the most persistent myths about fundraising.
In this excerpt from the course, Tom debunks two of these myths. This excerpt has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Myth Number 1: Fundraising is only about getting cash.
Sure, we always think about soliciting money when we think of fundraising, but money is only one of the most obvious forms of support. Support can also come in the form of people donating time, manufactured goods, food, space, or a host of other things that furthers the work of the organization.
We use the term in-kind donations to describe those that are not cash. In the end, you are just as successful if you get the things that the cash was supposed to purchase.
Here is an example: Anita wants to start a school and she needs donated temporary space and equipment. She can ask for cash, but receiving donated space, computers, desks and chairs, is also a success with the same result. In many communities, cash is scarce, but the things cash can buy are not.
Remember this important caveat. In-kind gifts are only valuable if you can use them. For example, I have seen situations where food banks have piles of cans of food whose expiration dates have passed. Or offices were old surplus computer equipment has been donated but is obsolete. Sometimes a gift will have some monetary value; consider a painting. But it will take a lot of time and expense to turn it into cash.
I always advise people to solicit in-kind gifts that you need, and to be careful about accepting those that you do not.
Myth Number 2: Raising money is all about knowing rich people.
I have had many students tell me: “I can never be a good fundraiser because I do not know people who have a lot of money.”
Do you have a loving family? Do you have good friends? If the answer to either question is yes, then you can probably start a fundraising program.
“But wait,” they say, “I cannot ask people I know and I am close to for money! Besides, they don’t have much.”
You have to start somewhere, and you should not expect a lot when you start.
Remember, it is about finding supporters – as many as you can – who can spread the word. Each time you find a person who will support you, that person has a family and friends and the circle can grow.
Think about it like a pebble in a pond. When you throw that pebble, there are concentric circles. The closest ones are family and friends and then people that they know. And then eventually those concentric circles get wider and wider until you do meet up with those donors that have a great deal of money who you didn’t know at the beginning.
Starting with some simple fundraising event to which you invite family and friends could be a low risk start. Remember: the more donors you have, the more funding you can get – and the more donors you can find, the more prospects they will lead you to. Eventually, they will lead to the wealthy people you thought you didn’t know.
To learn about the remainder of Tom Wolf’s seven myths of fundraising, and to get the essential knowledge that you need to start fundraising, enroll in Introduction to Fundraising from Philanthropy University.
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