Thursday, February 19, 2009

Effective Fundraising For Nonprofits Real World Strategies That Work, 2nd Edition, by Ilona Bray, J.D.

Effective Fundraising For Nonprofits Real World Strategies That Work, 2nd Edition, by Ilona Bray, J.D.

This is a practical hands on book on how to raise money money for nonprofits. There is no theory. Every section is focused on ways to increase funding; donation letters, bequests, selling merchandise, producing brochures and websites, approaching individual donors, and many other subjects are covered.

The books opens with a statement that you should clarify the reason you are asking for money. This includes having a clear mission and goals. Some of the reasons I can think of which people might give money to our library are; we have a nice job information center collection, a law collection, provide free access to computers for the public, provide community space for events, are a historical Carnegie building, have many displays and have a small space to display local art.

There are several chapters on how to write donor solicitation letters and followup with donors once they have given money. The book suggests that you leave telephone solicitation alone because of problems with telemarketing and email solicitation alone because of spam. There are also descriptions of annual renewal letters and holiday appeal letters. There is a reminder that letter writing campaigns are for donations of $250 or less.

For more money in the $500 or more range, nonprofits should turn to personal appeals. This is done through prospect research. I find this kind of interesting. This is currently being done by our library foundation. In our area, the Westchester County Business Journal writes about many local philanthropists. There are a variety of sources for prospect research. One of the free ones which the book lists is the Forbes magazines People Tracker database for high net worth individuals.

The persoanl appeals section segues into the process of generating bequests or donations from last wills and testaments. People over the age of 45 write wills and many of them include donations. Bequests tend to specify exactly how donated money will be spent. Individual donations to nonprofits account for 75% of fundraising money.

I liked some of the points made in the section on special events. Nonprofits won't make money from selling food. For the most part, they will break even. Selling food is often a goodwill gesture and it generates good public relations. I think of our library booksales with books and baked goods as a goodwill gesture. They do generate enough cash to help us with some library programming. The only other events I have participated in for libraries are street fairs. Mainly this is to increase the membership of the Friends of the Library and hand out materials about the library.

I might try to go to one of our future fundraising events to get a better sense of what is happening. Some of the events I have seen advertised in local libraries are literary teas, honorary luncheons, photography exhibitions, art exhibits, and crafts fairs.

Some nonprofits run social enterprises. These are businesses. I have been to the New York Public Library book and gift shop as well as the Brooklyn Public Library coffee shop. This is a lot of work to do. We really don't sell merchandise.

The next section in this book is on grant writing. My colleague works on writing grants. It is a tremendous amount of work. There is a lot of research involved. There are a number of tips on grant writing in this book: the more reproducible your project is, the more likely it is to get funding, make your grant easy to read, send it in early, and be prepared to have people visit your site.

With grants comes support materials like brochures and newsletters. My colleague and I recently designed a services brochure for our library. I think this will improve our outreach considerably. We do not currently have a lirbary newsletter. I am hoping that the library will start a new blog soon so I can work on it. What I am doing now is partially preparation for this.

Our library already has a fairly complex website which is in the process of being upgraded. While wandering through the internet, I noticed several of the local libraries had a paypal donation button on their site. Along with this I am hoping that they rewrite the Friends of the Library section and include a section on the Library Foundation.

The last section in this book is on contacting and talking to the media. It is important to list all fundraising events as well as programs with media. We have been sending out a lot more press releases to the media lately. This is because we recently redesigned our calendar of events and are doing more programming. There is a reminder that news is about new and "content is king".

This book is a comprehensive overview of the fundraising process for nonprofits. It helped me grasps some of the concepts a little better. I can recommend it without hesitation. The book itself is very clearly written. It includes an index and a set of worksheets to help clarify your decisions at the end of the book. There are sample documents, black and white photographs, and tips throughout the book.

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