Keeping An Open Mind

I am not an event person. I don’t like gala dinners, carnivals, poker nights.  And I especially don’t like them as fundraisers.  I think they are ineffective and costly.  I believe that there are so many better ways to raise money.  In fact, I think that the best way to fundraise is to get out in front of people and have individual meetings. But my likes and dislikes aren’t always the best indicators of what an organization should do.

I just finished a retreat with an all-volunteer group. Their fundraising nut isn’t large, but it is greater than the sum the board members can collectively give.  So the focus was on fundraising and, specifically, the barriers to fundraising for them.

For starters, the organization doesn’t have a database of prospects and prior donors.  How would they begin to identify people who might support their organization?

Time was another big issue.  They all have day jobs, families, other things in which they are involved.  And, to be honest, fundraising can be a real slog.

With no identified prospects, do you resort to asking your friends?  If they say yes, are you going to have to return the favor and support their nonprofit?  If they say no, does it put a crimp in your friendship?  But if not your friends, who?

For this group, maybe events are the best way to fundraise—especially if they didn’t do huge galas but focused on small gatherings and even larger parties.  This way they could have fun—something that was identified as important to them—and they could raise awareness of their organization.

The point, of course, is to always remember that one size does not fit all, and that something that you think isn’t a good idea may be in certain circumstances.  Keeping an open mind may allow your organization to get places you never thought it could go.  It can also open up new doors that will lead to new opportunities.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to identify the best opportunities for them.  Learn more at  and while there, sign up for her monthly newsletter.