Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wisdom from Guy on Fund Raising

I've learned a lot from Guy Kawasaki over the years. His book, 'The Art of the Start" taught me much about starting things, raising money and making presentations. He recently did a blog post that contrasts two types of approaches to venture capital. One is with up front money is one is raising money after a product is brought to market. You can read his thoughts on 'Plan B' fundraising here.

To me there are many parallels to the non profit sector. Many of us think 'money first, programs after.' We like to project what we feel will be the best case scenarios, articulate the community need are then try to build the capacity around the idea. In my career I've started things only to find the need was not what I expected it to be, and had to go back to donors or stakeholders and explain what happened. That's not too fun. Staffing in non profit work is as or more important than in the for profit world because of the relationship factor. Staffing is also by far the highest cost of all and is what, other than a place to be, what capacity building is about in our world. 

Others, scape, borrow, beg and duct tape a program together, prove the need, create the market (participants) then build the capacity of the program after the program and approach is proven. 

With our youth financial literacy program, for example, we've proven over the past year that there is a need and our approach works. Now we're trying to build the staffing and capacity of the program to meet the demand. It's a whole different type of 'ask' when you can say - "We're blowing the doors off and your help with make a major difference!"  This, in my opinion, is by far the better way to go and the easier way to build capacity and raise funds. It's still a bear to raise funds - and is the burden I have to carry on a daily basis. I'd much rather raise funds with all the data, evidence of proven need and track record than with great ideas. 

However, if an organization or leader has a proven track record of success, then there is a much greater chance of raising funds and building capacity before a programs is unveiled. For those of us who are still establishing ourselves, then 'Plan B Fundraising' may be the right route to take. 

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