ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 9:49am
posted by
Brandee Wessel,

Director of Development
National Multiple Sclerosis
Society, Arizona Chapter

Gone are the days when nonprofit organizations were able to host a walk, gala, or other fundraising event, and have the entire weekend devoted to their organization. Now, there are often multiple events in the same time period, pulling from a similar pool of donors. What used to be a simple way to engage the community has turned into a competition on how to be more creative in raising dollars. And let’s be honest: our economy appears to be improving in certain areas, but overall we are still a ways off from the good ol’ days where unemployment and the uncertain housing market weren’t hot topics and mentioned in every news portal available. As much as we want to be optimistic, these topics make our community nervous and often unsure of what direction we are heading.

This is why we need to be working smarter, not harder, and we need to start collaborating. It is a time to unite with companies within our community and connect with one another’s missions. How can we help each other? How can we grow our fundraising campaigns and be good stewards in our community while also informing our supporters of the good work they are building on? Many are promoting fundraising campaigns within their establishments, not only engaging employees but engaging customers. This type of exposure is extremely valuable, as many nonprofits do not have a marketing budget. Furthermore, it is wise to learn as much as possible about the companies your nonprofit is connected with. Many have a matching gift program that will automatically double and sometimes triple the donations raised by company employees. This type of support can take your event to the next level.

It is also essential to partner with other nonprofits that have similar missions or even backgrounds within the community. If your missions align, you may be able to partner on projects that would otherwise be put on hold. By identifying potential partners, nonprofits can often accomplish their goals together within the same project. It is also prudent to stay in touch with colleagues and even join in their efforts within the community. For example, there is a local nonprofit whose sole mission is to bring together other nonprofit health agencies. Many times it will arrange for multiple nonprofits to visit and speak to large companies throughout the valley as a way to streamline employee giving campaigns. This is a nice way to not only highlight their respective efforts, but also keep in touch with similar organizations. Such a practice will ultimately pay off in the end when employee dollars are distributed.

As nonprofits, we must prevail as we have clients in our community that we are here to serve and who need us now more than ever. It is not a time to sit back and discuss when will be a good time to implement that new fundraising campaign you have been mulling over for months. The time is now and the need is there. So make sure you are seeking out every avenue possible to raise these important dollars that will ultimately improve the lives of so many within our community.

Brandee is a native of Arizona and a graduate of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at ASU. Brandee started her journey in the nonprofit community with an internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and served in the Arthritis Foundation’s programs department after graduation. She has served in multiple roles in her 7 years with the MS Society, and is now the Director of Development.

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Click here to read Jessica Sadoway's post, "Better Together: Collaboration and Nonprofit Networking."


Great insight into this topic. Just the other day I was talking to a friend who works for a nonprofit, and we were discussing the numerous Facebook invites we had for fundraisers and how often it seems like there is just too much going on during the weekends. Maybe it's just the time of year being the holidays that there is seemingly a million different fundraisers and events taking place, but like you stated, on any given weekend there are multiple events in the same time period. Much like your Facebook news feed, the market is just flooded with information and event invites and invites to "like" a page and so forth. It can be overwhelming, and I admit there are times when faced with multiple events that I'd rather just stay home than try to hit up each event or fundraiser. (I'm sure I'm not the only one.)

I definitely agree with you that there needs to be more collaboration and partnership between like-minded and similar organizations. Collaborate, consolidate and just make the events bigger and better! On the other hand, I do believe that nonprofits do have to get creative with their fundraisers, not so much because of competition (though that does play a part in it), but also just to spice things up and add some variety. Do it to re-energize your donor base, excite a new donor base, get publicity for the cause, have a good time.

Walks, galas, auctions, etc. are tried and true fundraisers and have become tradition, but by now it seems like EVERYONE does one. If a nonprofit does want to do one of those traditional fundraisers like a walk, then switch it up and do something wacky and fun like everyone has to dress up, or walk backwards or do a crab walk at a checkpoint - just something to make people laugh and have a good time. Make participants walk in heels like those high heel walk-a-thons! I say make it unique, make it stand out. I feel that taking a creative risk is a smart gamble because if it succeeds, then great, the organization now has a new energy to run off of. If it backfires, then you can always go back to the traditional way of conducting the fundraiser.

The time is indeed now to try out some new things and create a new culture that is even bigger and better.

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