I currently sit on the national boards of two nonprofit organizations – the Reading Recovery Council of North America and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. Board membership requirements differ, but a commonality is to raise external funds to support the operational and strategic initiatives of the organization. In addition to the national boards, our own goal number four calls for the College to be gracious stewards of existing resources and to raise additional support. With our development officer, Andrea Elliott, we work to to raise funds for scholarships, programming, professional development, and faculty and student support.
David Lansdowne has provided an ideal primer for those who are in the beginning states of a fundraising campaign. He subtitled the book, “A 1-Hour Crash Course on Raising Major Gifts for Nonprofit Organizations.” I found his writing style to be humorous, practical, and straightforward. One of the fundamentals to fundraising is establishing a fundable mission. In other words, why would someone want to give money to the cause. He suggest defining the mission by asking questions such as why does the organization exits, what makes our organization better, are our priorities clear, what are our major strengths and weaknesses, and how can we improve our services? These essential questions enable the organization to define its mission.
Another practical lesson is that an organization has to make its case. If a potential donor asks what is the organization's purpose, a prepared response should be ready. When developing the case, the organization must ask the following questions. Why are you seeking funds, why now, why should I give to your organization as opposed to another, who will benefit, and how will you measure the benefit? The answers to these questions tell the donor what you are trying to accomplish and why. It describes your history, purpose, and plans. But most importantly, it offers compelling reasons to invest in the particular cause.
Again, this book is filled with practical and approachable ideas that I believe any member of a nonprofit board would find beneficial. In our courses in nonprofit leadership development, I think this book would be a helpful guide. As I completed the book, I was thankful that within the University we have a talented and resourceful Foundation and that with our very own development officer within the College, our fundraising needs are of high priority. This book did equip me with sage advice on how I can best support the nonprofit organizations of which I am a board member.
Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean
College of Education
University of Northern Iowa