Building Individual Fundraising Capacity

Last year, consultant Curtis Chang of Consulting Within Reach offered his services pro bono to FORGE during their radical transparency experiment. Looking back on the FORGE story, Curtis told me:

My takeaway from the FORGE case is that there is tremendous strategic leverage when foundations, influential individuals and nonprofits work together for the good of the sector.

Curtis is a man of action and so he has taken it upon himself to organize a gathering of people from the sector to talk about how nonprofits can improve their capacity to fundraise from individual donors. Curtis rightly recognizes that fundraising revenue from individuals is more sustainable than revenue from institutional funders.

Describing the event (which I will be a part of and will be held at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation on May 11), Curtis writes:

The nonprofit sector is sustained by four main sources of funding: 1) state contracts; 2) foundations; 3) corporate giving; and 4) individuals. The first three will all be certainly cut in the near future: state funding due to the budget crisis; foundations due to heavy endowment losses in the stock market; corporate giving due to a deep recession.

If nonprofits are to thrive amidst this climate, they must expand their individual donor base. And yet, some of the most outstanding nonprofits have relied heavily on those first three sources and have under invested in their capacity to reach individuals. If donors wish to multiply the impact of their own (often shrinking) dollars, helping nonprofits build this capacity is one highly leveraged response to the current financial crisis.

Curtis has brought together a great group of people including:

  • Bill Somerville, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation
  • Mauricio Palmas, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Loretta Gallegos, Packard Foundation
  • Anne Marie Burgoyne, Draper Richards Foundation
  • Dave Peery, Peery Foundation
  • Sean Stannard-Stockton, Tactical Philanthropy
  • Lindsay Austin Louie and Lance Fors, SV2

He’s also assembling a group of individual donors. The key group of course is the outstanding nonprofits that he’s bringing to the table. The three groups will spend the day talking about how the nonprofits can increase their capacity to fundraise from individuals.

Here’s where you come in: Curtis is looking for recommendations of nonprofits that should be invited. If you have someone in mind, shoot me an email and I’ll pass it along to Curtis. The criteria are:

  • pursues a mission with a relatively broad appeal
  • possesses some distinctive that makes it stand out
  • led by an individual that presents well
  • has a small individual donor base but is motivated to grow it
  • available to be in silicon valley on May 11

He’s looking for outstanding organizations. Who should be there?

One Comment

  1. Michael Moody says:

    Interesting idea and a very significant point that we see coming up all the time (even when the economy is growing) for nonprofits frustrated by either: a) the uncertainty of foundation or corporate grant funding, and/or b) the slowness of government to pay for contracted services. Individual givers, esp. repeat/annual fund givers, are key, and many new or small nonprofits struggle to develop them.

    But one important clarification of how this project is framed seems in order. The statement reads: “The nonprofit sector is sustained by four main sources of funding: 1) state contracts; 2) foundations; 3) corporate giving; and 4) individuals.” That leaves out what NCCS reports is the #1 source of funding for nonprofits: fees for goods/services paid by private sources (e.g., tuition to Stanford, or bills paid to nonprofit hospitals). In fact, that accounts for 50% of revenue to reporting public charities–no small amount. Whether this top revenue stream will decline also seems a key question to address in your discussion. (By the way, 5% of nonprofit revenues come from investment income–at least it did before 2008!–which certainly adds to the current financial squeeze.)