What are non-profits for & what is the story behind successful fund-raising?

It has been almost three years since I have been working with a non-profit organization. I have worn the hats of both being an HR professional and donations manager for fund-raising purposes. Therefore, these two interviews relevant to non-profits resonated with me and I am sharing some of the highlights worth keeping in mind below.

What are non-profits for?

The board members must understand that we invented non-profits for a reason and the reason is it’s okay to fail. If it had to work, then you would have been a for-profit company that had to make its dividends. The entire reason non-profits exist is we don’t know how to solve this problem. If we knew, we would have solved it already. You’re here because we want you to be scientists, to explore, to apply a series of steps to a problem until the problem goes away. Too often, non-profits when they cross five people, become defenders of non-profits as opposed to eager scientists willing to figure out yet another way the problem can’t be solved as we work our way to the path where it can be solved.
So, creating tension is actually a good thing. The tension of making a donor uncomfortable with what you are about to do next and this might not work is good because there are no comfortable problems left to be solved. All we are left with are the uncomfortable ones.
Non-profits have been sucked into this easy trope which is give us the money and we will solve the problem. It’s like saying switch off the light bulb, the global warming will go away. We need to tell donors that hey we are going to solve this problem together instead of saying hey the clock is ticking and we need to solve this problem. In the latter case, of course, you are going to get stressed because you just promised people that there is no risk, except for the endless emergency of poverty. The best stories tell the truth to the donors.
The downside of non-profits is low compared to the upside of growth because you don’t have greedy shareholders. We need non-profits to act like artists and playwrights by failing more and by failing often.
What is fund-raising for?
When someone donates money to a charity, they are buying something, they’re hiring the charity to solve a problem for them. So, the question here is what are they buying?
Too often we get hung up on the problem to be solved and its urgency. But, that’s not what anyone is buying.
The story here is does it resonate with me and with the person I believe I am. The mistake that we make because our cause is so good is that we skip all that and try to get to the facts. Guess what, no one looks at the facts when they buy anything.
Why is fund-raising a great skill to have?
If you can raise money, you are never going to have trouble getting a job. The way great fundraising is done by connecting the disconnected, by organizing tribes of people who want to hear from each other. Anytime someone gives you fifty dollars, they’re only doing it because they are getting $75 worth of value out of it. If you look at things this way, you will realize you are having 50% off sale.
Why do some non-profits behave like corporations?
Charities ended up mimicking the structure of corporations for a couple of reasons. The first is foundations were run by people who had made their money in corporations. The second is the cultural imperative was to act like people who were creating all the sufficiency. We add that all up and we have org charts and everything where people who show up to do their jobs as opposed to people who show up to work for the mission.
Until recently, problem is that most non-profits dealt with anonymous recipients of their work. The mantra of today’s world is therefore, treat different people differently and its done by connection. The mindset is a corporate mindset because no non-profits is going to say we are going to shutdown as soon as this problem is fixed. They will always find something else to work on.

 

 

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