RIP, Fundraising Event

Fundraising Event, 156, died February 26, 2020 in Kalamazoo, MI, where it was born, with 95,400 nonprofit fundraisers by its side. A memorial service was held Thursday evening at kitschy renovated firehouse event spaces everywhere, replete with discount Chiavari chairs, bone-color linens, and cold chicken.

Fundraising Event was born as “Kalamazoo Sanitary Fair” on November 10, 1864, the lovechild of Ladies Soldier’s Aid Society of Kalamazoo. As a youth, Fundraising Event moved frequently around the United States until 1948, as a teenager, arriving in New York City under the name “Met Gala.” For the next quarter-century, it found its way until meeting Diana Vreeland, who really cleaned it up. It received a M.A. in philanthropic studies from the Lilly School at Indiana University, though never really did much with the degree.

Fundraising Event was at its best in the evenings, during the months of spring. As a young adult, it was mindful and full of purpose; its closest friends knew it as “modest,” “effective,” and “not a tremendous burden on staff.” As it aged, its tastes grew more refined and elegant, and it started spending time with a more exclusive crowd, which it charged for the pleasure of its company.

Over the past century-and-a-half, Fundraising Event was actively involved with thousands of American nonprofit organizations, particularly arts, culture, social service, and healthcare. Its interests included silent auctions, cloth napkins folded like birds, and imposing upon friends to sponsor high-cost gala tables.

Fundraising Event is survived by its siblings, GivingTuesday and 5k Run/Walk. Though estranged, it is also survived by its cousin, Girl Scout Cookie Drive. It was preceded in death by Haseki Sultan Imaret in Jerusalem.

Donations may be sent to your local chapter of Association for Fundraising Professionals, in support of National Philanthropy Day — fair market value of $45 per person.


Rest in piece, dear friend.


Nonprofit Apps We Didn’t Know We Needed

Technology is a wondrous thing, especially the apps we use on our little nightmare pocket rectangles. Here are a few someone should create to make our nonprofit lives easier. It would have to be a volunteer though, because we don’t have the budget this fiscal year.ComputerGuy

  • Oopz: Sends strongly worded emails to staff who have the audacity to tell you how to do your job, when they can’t be bothered to do their own
  • OopzPro: Sends strongly worded emails to board members when they overstep their boundaries
  • DonorImperfect: Aggregates publicly available data to discern whether the donor was actually inspired by your organization, or was just making a test gift
  • LolNoThnx: Delicately shoots down (via text, obviously) incredibly naive program ideas presented by millennial staff with less than five years experience
  • Fundr: Immediately lets you know if a corporate sponsor is actually interested in your mission, or if they just want logo recognition on print collateral
  • FundrPro: Translates foundation RFPs into simple terms, letting you know exactly what they want, when they want it, how many copies, on what color and weight paper, what random PO Box to use for mailing, and what board members are comfortable being secretly and inappropriately pitched because you “already have a relationship with them”
  • Coupl: Helps figure out if you should list the donor wife or husband’s name first on stewardship materials
  • NegotiatR: Helps effectively negotiate job offers which propose salaries at or below the poverty line
  • DoctR: Automatically locks Susan’s office door and flashes a “GO HOME” sign when she tries to come to work with massively contagious viral bronchitis
  • ThatIsUrJob: Finds YouTube videos which explain simple tasks like mail merges and replacing the Xerox paper when the office administrator claims those things are not his responsibility

What else do we need, nonprofiteers? How about a social media platform where we get together and vent about the absurdities of our work? Oh, wait, that already exists.


Seinfeld Explains Fundraising

I grew up in New York, so I have a strong affinity for Seinfeld — for me it’s like cultural oxygen. Often I have found the show to be incredibly relevant with myriad life experiences, one of which recently dawned on me.

The show’s episode 133, The Wait Out, is filled with the usual hijinks, and centers on a couple who get divorced. Jerry and Elaine pounce on the opportunity to pitch themselves as immediate rebounds, with Elaine famously conjuring up the plan to tell the ex-couple: I’m there for you. Then after a period of being “there for you” … we’re just “there.”


Isn’t that… development? At the very least, it’s a pretty good development philosophy. You find the most right way to initiate with a donor or prospect, and move from initiation to presence. Great fundraisers are present, consistent and persistent (but not too persistent) whereas the less-than-great have sporadic, poorly planned interactions with donors, which can come off as transparent, ineffective and sometimes smarmy.

Now, this doesn’t excuse the work that needs to be done once you are there. In fact, that’s really where the work begins. Once you get to know a donor and their background, history, love (or emerging interest) for the mission and so on, maintaining presence — again, while not being too present — is so important. I may be a sample group of one, but the relationship should grow to where the donor feels comfortable enough to call or e-mail (or text or whatever is appropriate) if they have ideas, questions or concerns. Conversations shouldn’t only be about making gifts; in fact in some scenarios, gifts are made simply as a result of being present without any ask.

So what’s the takeaway? Don’t be the one-night-stand of fundraising; be the counterpart who’s “there.”