Three Nonprofit Leaders on Raising Funds

The following interviews, conducted by Swikriti Shahi, seek to understand:

  • If creative entrepreneurs typically seek capital in starting their organization
    • If leaders of nonprofits, rather than entrepreneurs, how they raise funds
  • What ways they may have done so, if applicable
  • What advice they have for aspiring creative entrepreneurs. 

This interview process is part of SMU Meadows’ class Creative Entrepreneurship and Attracting Capital.

Audrey White, Readers 2 Leaders 501© (3), Development Manager Audrey White, Development Manager

Have you sought funding for your organization?

Yes, my primary role as the development manager is to seek funding through a variety of means for Readers 2 Leaders.

In what ways have you sought funding for your organization?

Our main sources of funding are through grants and individual donors. We get support from some well-known organizations like United Way, small family foundations local to the Dallas area, as well as individual donors who support us through making financial gifts at the end of year North Texas giving day and our fundraising events. Those are our main ways, but we also do get some fee-for-service contracts from the schools that we partner with.

What fundraising pursuits or self-generated efforts have proved most effective and why?

We actually do not get any government grants since we are a small non-profit organization. We are not an actual school, so we are not receiving any allocated state or city dollars related to what we do, which makes us reliant on the local community and their support. Our grant writing efforts have been quite effective in building long term relationships with local foundations. We do a mix of email and direct mail and by reaching out to people through phone, but the most effective channel is probably through our two annual fundraising events because it just helps us build a connection with the donors so they can see exactly what they are giving toward.

What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

First, get very comfortable talking to strangers since that’s probably what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. Second, believe in the work that the organization is doing. I think it would be difficult to fundraise for anything if you didn’t care about the mission. Third, I would recommend focusing on the story of the work and most importantly, the impact that potential donors can have on your organization so you can communicate that well to others.

Jermaine Goosby, HandsOn app, Creator Jermaine Goosby

Have you sought funding for your organization?

Yes, but I’m just starting up development, so it is definitely not much at the moment.

In what ways have you sought funding for your organization? If you have not, how were you able to grow without outside capital?

Mostly asking from family and applying for local grants from foundations that are in the technology field and willing to work with young developers. I also have a campaign to support me on Facebook that anyone can donate to.

What fundraising pursuits or self-generated efforts have proved most effective and why?

I currently have no grants and my online campaigns are just getting of the ground, so to this day my most successful source of fundraising has been through asking family members. It also definitely helps when I meet them in person so I can tell them about why I want to start this app and not just through a Facebook message.

What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

First, I would say make sure you have a solid plan before you start building because it actually takes a lot more behind the scenes work than you think. Some examples I have encountered would be like finding other coders for the app or filing all the proper legal paperwork. The second thing I would say is that Murphy’s Law truly exists. Anything that can go wrong, probably will, so always have backup plans when trying to make progress. Third, I would probably just say that you should really work on growing your network in all forms, like professionally and socially, because you never know who someone else knows.

James Ryan Jillson, Director of Individual Giving at the Nasher Sculpture Center James Ryan Jillson, Director of Individual Giving

Have you sought funding for your organization?

Yes, we get around $4-5 million a year. We separate between funding from people and funding from foundations and corporations. I focus on our membership and Individual tierd giving.

In what ways have you sought funding for your organization?

Our most common channels are mail, email, phone, social media, and definitely in- person if its larger than a $1000 ask.

What fundraising pursuits or self-generated efforts have proved most effective and why?

It truly depends on what you’re asking for. If we are asking for a significant commitment for a specific program or purpose, the most effective way is always going to be in person because you want to build that connection and ask as a person, not as a computer. Whereas, for lower level membership programs that are like $75 and under, the most effective ways are through digital channels and direct mail because the ease of access and speed. For example, if you get an email from the Nasher team saying your membership is up for renewal and all you have to do is click on a link and put in your information to do that, it is a lot easier on both sides and becomes more effective overall.

What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

First, to truly be a successful fundraiser you must really be passionate about what you are doing. You might not necessarily be the expert in the room, like I’m not an expert in modern and contemporary sculpture even though I fundraise for the Nasher, but you do have to be excited about it and passionate, because those emotions can transfer. Its hard to fundraise for something you’re not excited about. Second, you should treat anybody who is donating to your organization how you would want to be treated. It’s a donation but it is also an investment. They might not necessarily see a financial return on that investment, but they want to see some sort of return. If their contribution has had an impact in your organization and you can communicate that impact, you can be a lot more successful. A lot of fundraisers focus on new donors and constantly acquiring more, and that is important of course, but you also must remember the donors that are there already. Third, I would say that peer-to-peer fundraising is tremendous. Growing your network by simply asking others “who can you introduce me to” can open a lot of doors for you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Attracting Capital Interviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.