SOCAP10 - Decriminalizing Fundraising

The SOCAP10 conference agenda (PDF) keeps growing; the latest is the addition of FAILFaire to discuss projects using mobiles and ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) in international development that have failed spectacularly. Embracing failure with the intention of learning why an approach did not succeed is not only appropriate and logical; it’s a necessary step in developing projects that will ultimately succeed.

Sadly, open discussions by philanthropic institutions and nonprofits about failures (and yes, it happens) remain infrequent, which leads me to the Decriminalizing Fundraising session at SOCAP10. This session for the Tactical Philanthropy track will feature George Overholser of Nonprofit Finance Fund Capital Partners and Dan Pallotta of Springboard. Sean Stannard-Stockton provides a good overview of the session and a little bit on what to anticipate.

In thinking about how fundraising practices can be fundamentally changed in order to improve the nonprofit sector, I hope the speakers touch upon several points: increased transparency by nonprofits and funders, a willingness to embrace and discuss failure, and a focus on creating greater leverage opportunities.

Cultivating donors and investors requires clarity of vision on what will be accomplished with the funds. Developing a long-term relationship with the donor or investor so that financial resources will continue to flow to the organization requires a willingness to embrace transparency. Similarly, that transparency needs to be adopted within the organization raising the funds: all too often program and fundraising units fail to effectively communicate and inform each other to the detriment of their fundraising efforts.

Transparency should also encompass the organization’s successes and failures, and its overall strategic vision. Even as donors and investors look to more effectively allocate their own resources, their expectations of success are still tempered: failure happens. What’s more critical is how the organizations learn and adjust from those failures. Providing that level of transparency to existing and potential donors and investors should help in fostering longer-term relationships.

The last area I hope to hear about focuses on better ways to leverage donations and investments. In my opinion, these transactions are too camouflaged. Donors or individual investors looking for opportunities to proactively leverage their resources struggle to find this information. Organizations attempting to raise these funds often focus on the individual donor or investor. But what might happen if the organization engaged a whole group of donors and investors in a fundraising effort and provided much more visibility on how their separate contributions are leveraged? My guess is that we could see bigger investments altogether.

 

Disclaimer: This post is part of a series of posts on the SOCAP10 conference. As part of the blogging coverage for the conference, I was able to register to attend at a discounted rate. A version of this post appears on the SOCAP10 blog.

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