Philanthropy isn’t know for moving fast, but things are a little different online. As I wrote yesterday, I first proposed the idea of the Tactical Philanthropy Community providing resources to FORGE last Wednesday. By Friday I had Rich Polt of Louder Than Words and Curtis Chang of Consulting Within Reach officially on board. Other groups are currently in discussions. On Monday Kjerstin had met with Curtis and spoken with Rich. By Monday night, Curtis was blogging on Social Edge about working with FORGE.
I’ve told all parties involved that my one expectation is that everyone will embrace Kjerstin’s lead and publicly release everything relevant to their work with FORGE. Here’s Curtis’s first blog post (and may I say that he’s a natural blogger!)
I am a sucker for good sea bass.
Last Wednesday, Sean Stannard-Stockton, the influential author of Tactical Philanthropy, invited me out to lunch at one of those nice Asian fusion restaurants in Burlingame.
He waited until my Chilean sea bass – steamed and wrapped in a delicate origami paper box – had arrived and its ginger and garlic aroma was wafting up to my nose.
“I have a proposal,” he said.
He proceeded to tell about Kjerstin’s move to share openly about her financial plight with the online community at the Social Edge. As Sean has written, he felt her act highlighted an important issue for the nonprofit community: namely the need for greater transparency among nonprofit leaders, especially with the donor community.
I immediately warmed to the story. Partly it was agreeing with Sean on the issue of transparency. But I think for me it was even more Kjerstin’s biographical story of dropping out of Stanford (at least for a few years) to start FORGE on a shoestring. Right along there with my love of excellent seafood is my fondness for – and shared embodiment of – a “educational riches to rags” story.
So when Sean asked if my firm could help out in any way, I was predisposed to agree.
I’ll explain more about my consulting firm, Consulting Within Reach (CWR), in some future entry. Suffice it to say it is a group of ten professionals – mostly from Silicon Valley corporate backgrounds – that I recruited to use their skills to serve compelling causes. We specialize in building organizational capacity in areas like marketing, web development, fundraising, strategic planning, and more.
From my experience leading CWR, I wasn’t daunted in theory by her need to raise over $100K by the end of February (really more, if she were to put the organization on firmer footing). For instance, earlier this year we helped one of our clients, a startup nonprofit, raise almost $300K in a four week campaign. So I knew it could be done.
But that kind of concentrated effort requires an “all hands on deck” commitment from my entire team to cover all the organizational areas involved (marketing strategy, production of collateral, and more). We just weren’t ready for that effort on such short notice.
So I proposed another strategy: CWR would compose FORGE’s “foxhole prayer.”
There’s an old saying that “ there are no atheists in foxholes.” And soldiers who have survived near death situations regularly talk about having made vows to God during the crisis that if they survive, they promise they will do X,Y, or Z.
Well, Kjerstin needs a “foxhole prayer.” Because any potential donor considering helping FORGE survive this crisis is going to be asking (silently if not aloud), “What are you going to do so you won’t be back next year asking for another rescue?”
In the next few weeks, Kjerstin needs to be ready with an answer.
That’s where we’ll come in. CWR’s main role will be to outline a long term plan that builds FORGE’s capacity to market, fundraise, and manage itself in a sustainable fashion. If FORGE makes it out of this current foxhole, they – and their donors – will know what they need to do.
And while I can’t promise to raise the money for her, I’ll help out with guidance and support where I can. I can’t jump into the foxhole with her, but I’ll visit regularly.
I agreed to all this on Thursday, the day after I had lunch with Sean. On Friday, when the folks at Social Edge heard about this arrangement, they thought it would be a further interesting experiment in transparency to share publicly about our process. They asked Kjerstin and me if we would jointly blog during the project.
We agreed but I stipulated that the normal client expectations of confidentiality would then not apply. For instance, if I discovered that FORGE really didn’t have a prayer, well, then I would blog about that. If you’re going to survive by the sword of transparency, you’ve got to be ready to die by it. Kjerstin agreed without hesitation.
So here we are, less than a week after that fateful lunch. I’m not sure how this will all work out and it could easily all blow up on us.
If it does, Sean, you owe me some more sea bass.