Fairmount InSights

Over the past 26 years, Fairmount Ventures has assisted over 400 nonprofits and raised more than $800,000,000. In so doing, we’ve generated extensive knowledge about what highly successful fundraising efforts have in common. Here’s what we’ve learned, and what we advise clients’ volunteer leadership to consider as you help staff generate more dollars to do more good.

  1. We live in a wealthy region

Too often, nonprofits adopt a scarcity mindset, i.e., “we are perpetually under-resourced”. Yet, Greater Philadelphia is an immensely wealthy region with a GDP of $4.3 Billion. With the current economic boom, total philanthropic giving is on a steady upward trajectory.  Effective fundraisers focus on finding assets, not absences.

As a board member, your job is to think strategically about how to mobilize your organization to identify people with discretionary resources who care about your nonprofit’s work.

  1. Friends, not foundations

Nonprofits should secure their market share of foundation and corporate support, but greater focus must be on individuals. Collectively, individual donors comprise 75% of philanthropic giving. Tap foundations to support innovative ideas, but they are less likely to support core operations. With the number of corporate headquarters diminished in this region, so too has giving from this sector declined. Individual donors are the greatest share and most flexible stream of philanthropy.

While securing foundation and corporate funds is largely staff-driven, successful individual donor programs require far greater board participation. Effective boards prepare themselves for this shift by first acknowledging the change, and then preparing themselves to transition to this new role.

  1. Passion pays

There’s a reason people give to their faith community and alma mater: they affect people in a profoundly personal way. To generate greater philanthropic support, find the people who care about your issue, and educate others to do so. That’s how the ACLU raised $24 Million in one weekend in response to the Muslim travel ban. Local organizations also saw a large uptick in support. Chances are many of those donors were not previous supporters, but their gifts were both an expression of outrage and a way to help. Now, these organizations have the opportunity to continue to engage a larger pool of donors.

Board members in successful nonprofits wear their hearts on their sleeves. They passionately broadcast why they are committed to the organization, and engage others in joining them.

  1. Remember your A,B,C’s

How many times have you heard someone say, “Let’s ask Wealthy Person X for a donation.” Great; who knows Wealthy Person X? When in doubt, apply the test of Ability, Belief and Contact in developing a realistic prospect list. Only ask someone for money when you have all three ingredients: you know they have ability to give; they believe in what you do; and you have a connecting relationship with them.

Philadelphia may be the largest small town in the country. Think “six degrees of separation” to determine how board members can introduce to and engage a prospective major donor.

What does this all mean for board members?

  1. Being a board member is not a spectator sport.  As the graphic indicates, directly asking for money is a small part of fundraising. Find a role that you are ready and comfortable to play.
  2. No one majors in being a board member in college. Being a good board member entails acquiring new skills and knowledge. Make sure your organization invests in training and supporting the board to fundraise.
  3. Expect a culture shift on the board. Organizations making the switch from staff-driven fundraising to an individual donor program need to recognize the culture shift. Members are asked to do things for which they didn’t sign on. Have transparent discussions to acknowledge this, and then determine how to evolve.

As people passionate about making the Philadelphia region a better, equitable place for everyone, the Fairmount Ventures team is constantly considering new ways to secure a greater share of the region’s $4.3 Billion GDP for local nonprofits. We’d love to hear what’s worked for your organization to help inform the sector. You can reach me at: DKligerman@fairmountinc.com

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