Fundraising- A new craze! Go fund yourself

Here’s what’s happening.

Everyone’s a fundraiser now.

ORLY? Why?

Because we are seeing a maturation of online fundraising, a greater availability of crowdfunding platforms (550+ at the last count) and a deterioration of the social safety net. This requires people to find innovative ways to get their needs met, whether it’s funds to pay for school, a funeral, or medical treatment.

Now people are using YOU CARING and GOFUND ME to try to get their medical needs taken care of. Mother Jones wrote an article called “Go Fund Yourself

It’s an apt title, because it shows the fact that people are falling through the cracks and the system doesn’t care. The story in Go Fund Yourself follows a young bartender and her friend who create a page for her to get money while she’s receiving chemotherapy treatments and can’t work. She does receive her goal, in part due to her networks, and in part due to her charm, but someone else, with MS, also profiled in this story, dies before she raises anything even close to her goal. You have to ask yourself, what kind of world have we created, when we have to crowdfund our healthcare?

On top of these trends, have you noticed the language that newspapers are using? Support independent journalism! We can’t do this without you!

Does that sound familiar?

It should!

That’s how we raise funds for our nonprofits. And now big corporate newspapers are using it, according to They write,

“Support the mission of the Times,” beckons The New York Times website. “Support quality journalism,” encourages The Baltimore Sun. The online magazine Slate opts for the more direct “Help support Slate.” Others sounding “support” themes include venerable publications like The New Yorker and The Atlantic and new ventures such as GeekWire.

The forays into the philanthropic marketplace don’t stop there. Some media outlets are seeking — and getting — big dollars from private foundations.”

3 challenges this presents to us as nonprofit fundraisers

  1. The Crowdfunding challenge- Transparency. I said this before, with the meteoric rise of the micolending site Nonprofits need to be thinking about how to make each of their programs as compelling as Kiva does with each borrower. YES this takes time. YES it’s hard. But it’s achievable. And the results will be apparent. Don’t be so opaque with what a single donation does. Don’t think you’re above donation thermometers. People like to see that it’s bumped just a little bit higher. Just like with crowdfunding.

2. The Donor challenge– Building relationships. How do we get more strategic about the relationships we build? Check out your donor scorecard. What do you mean you don’t have a donor scorecard? Don’t you know what kind of donor you want to attract? What your donor pipeline looks like? If not, you need to start getting systematic with building these crucial relationships for your nonprofit. People are getting donations, grants, sponsorships and even government money because of their relationships. If you’re a nonprofit leader, one of your most critical jobs is to get those relationships for your nonprofit.

3. The strategic philanthropy challenge- The blurring of the line between nonprofits and for-profits! This is happening in silicon valley, in new york, and in venture capital worlds. They want to see a social profit enterprise with measurable results. They don’t think that nonprofits are doing a good enough job. Maybe some of that is on us, to communicate our actual results to people like this. But some of this is on their unexamined assumptions about poor nonprofit workers. If we’re poor, we’re automatically stupider than rich people. This is the basic assumption of puritanism. The elect arrive at their positions by divine right, and deserve their wealth. The poor were not trying hard enough, must be stupider, don’t deserve money.

So what happens? Because of these assumptions, they don’t bother asking nonprofit leaders who have been working in the field for years what effective solutions look like. People with hedge fund backgrounds decide they know what truly effective philanthropy is. Despite never having had a nonprofit job. Never having talked with the people they think they are going to serve. Never asking people experiencing the problem what they think would help. See also Strategic philanthropy is insulting!

What can we do now?

Well, #1. Get clearer on our messaging. Get more transparent. What will their money do? Where will it go? Can we create more personal stories on our websites? In our newsletters? In our one-on-one interactions with volunteers and donors? What messages truly resonate? With whom? How?

#2. Build better relationships with our donors. That means developing a donor scorecard and donor pipeline. What are those things? Check out Fundraising the SMART Way, by the Bristol Strategy Group. Take their leaky bucket assessment on this site.

#3. Educate donors how nonprofits are different from for-profits, and newspapers and crowdfunding sites that are also asking for money. Show them that for-profits don’t have an overarching moral compass, and are not accountable to their donors. They are accountable to their shareholders, and making their shareholders more money.

#4. Ask more. I know this is scary. But if you’re not setting up your pipeline to ask more, you’re not going to get more. You could stay in your comfort zone, sure. Write another grant proposal. Get some appeal letters out. But the real work of building your nonprofit is all about relationships. Ignore this at your peril.

Learn from Crowdfunding how to do a better ask! Take my crowdfunding course:

If you want to talk about how we can overcome these challenges, together, let’s talk how you can experiment, innovate and take risks that could pay off this year.

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