PART NINE Special Circumstances

If I had a dollar for every time I have been told: “You don’t know what it’s like to raise money for ______________,” followed by a description of the place where the organization is located, or the issue it works on, or the people it encounters, or some other variable, I could endow every nonprofit I ever cared about. Of course, it is true that I don’t know what it is like, but I can ask questions and learn, and that is usually why an organization is paying me to be there. What people mean when they tell me that I don’t know what it is like is that I don’t know how hard it is. No one says, “You don’t know what it’s like to have an easy time raising lots of money.”

People in nonprofits often imagine that it would be easier to raise money for a different NGO than the one they are in. People in the arts think social service fundraising is a cinch, people in advocacy imagine that providing free legal services would really loosen the purse strings, environmentalists covet the fundraising jobs of labor rights activists, and so on. For the most part, people kid themselves that fundraising would be much easier in another setting, but occasionally special circumstances make fundraising more difficult for certain kinds of organizations or at certain times in an organization’s existence. An accurate analysis of your fundraising situation is essential for creating a robust and sustainable fundraising program.

Most of the problems you have in an organization ...

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