Are you an isolationist or relationship-builder?

Development professionals: how do you describe the work you do? Do you tell people that you raise/earn money for a good cause? Or do you tell them that you build relationships on behalf of a good cause? Do you find prospective donors and “sell” the organization to them? Or do you help connect prospective donors with opportunities that match their passions and interests?

Here is the crux of my post: do you see other nonprofit organizations that serve a similar clientele or focus on similar issues as yours as competition or partner? Foe or friend? Are you an isolationist or a relationship-builder? almost seems that the isolationist fundraiser sees the work they do and their arena in very limited terms, as if the community of prospective donors and friends can be likened to a birthday party pinata. When the pinata breaks, children scramble over each other to grab as much candy as they can, knowing that there is only a limited amount and once all of the candy is grabbed… it’s gone.

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Events are not $ilver bullets. Instead, think of them as big, warm, fuzzy bear hugs.


I will admit that my entrance into development was through events. I was doing nonprofit development work as a volunteer years ago, before I even knew that’s what I was doing.

Before I went to grad school, before I started college, even before I graduated from high school, I was a waitress. The most practical skills I learned, beginning at around age of 15, were customer service skills, being able to greet and talk with anyone, juggling 62 tasks at once, learning the timing and flow of programs and service, developing the extra sense of anticipating the needs of guests, and just being on the service-side of major events/banquets. My step into planning events was as an undergraduate student when my department needed to organize a dinner of some sort… I don’t remember what it was. I watched the faculty struggle with making decisions, offered to help, and they dropped the entire event on me. No problem! Since then, I have found myself running some element (or the entire event program) of countless auctions, receptions, conference sessions (and two full conferences), campaign events, house parties, promotional appearances, and concerts. I know events.

But here are some things I have learned over time that I wish more nonprofits would consider (and this has come up a LOT lately as I have talked with various orgs):

Brand new major events are not $ilver bullets that will make you lots of money in a short period of time, and should not be considered quick fixes for your revenue problems.*

If your organization is struggling financially, think long and hard before you decide to host a new event for the sole purpose of bringing in an infusion of cash. Events rarely work that way, especially when the event is brand-spanking new to your organization.

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