1/9/2018 0 Comments
This piece originally appeared on Bright Magazine.
Nonprofit leaders everywhere struggle daily to search for the money they need to sustain their organizations, which are solving massive social problems like climate change and global poverty. In fact, an overwhelming 81% of nonprofit leaders identify access to capital as their most pressing problem. What most nonprofit leaders don’t realize is that fundraising doesn’t have to be a one-man-show. The most successful leaders get others raising money on their behalf, tapping into a broader audience and increasing organizations’ pie of donations.
Take the case of John Wood, the founder of Room to Read – an organization that supports literacy and girls education globally, who developed a model where other people would actually become actively involved in fundraising for the organization. Wood’s success in breaking the mold of nonprofit fundraising is perhaps attributable to his roots in the corporate world, as a former executive at Microsoft. When he first described his idea, many people told him his model would never work, that it wasn’t sustainable to try to raise money from individuals for libraries. He insisted that he was selling something donors wanted, and that if he packaged it in the right way, to create a one-to-one connection between the donors and the individuals they were supporting, they would eagerly respond.
According to Room to Read’s cofounder Erin Ganju, that packaging was really important to the organization’s success with individuals. “We started a model where you could support a school, you could support a library, you could support a local-language book being published in Nepal or Vietnam, and you knew exactly where that $5,000 or $10,000 check was going, and even got a couple of reports back throughout the year with photos of the school library being set up in that school or children reading those books.” This approach made donors feel strongly connected to the mission and the results.
Room to Read’s supporters felt so connected, in fact, that they wanted to do more. The organization started setting up chapters across the country and around the world to engage their supporters in raising even more money for the organization. These volunteer fundraisers commit to participating in geographic chapters based in cities around the world. Each chapter has a couple of leaders that go to San Francisco every year, at their own expense, for a leadership conference where Room to Read helps them develop their annual plan for their individual market. For example, they decide how many events they want to do, who their target audience is and how much money they plan to raise from them.
In addition, Room to Read uses the gathering as an opportunity to energize these champions, much like a corporate annual sales conference, sharing motivating stories about the organization’s impact they can take back to their chapters, and revealing the organization’s key objectives for the year. The chapter model has been so successful for Room to Read that they now have chapters in over sixteen countries in over forty cities, which in close collaboration with their staff help raise about 25 percent of the organization’s $50 million annual budget.
This sounds amazing, you might be thinking, but how do you sort through the noise in everyone’s lives to get others to help you with your fundraising? Here are a few tips on how you can develop a “champions program” to help others help you raise money:
Kathleen Kelly Janus is a social entrepreneur, author and lecturer at the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship. Her new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference, shares all this and more.