In Defense of Raising Money – A Manifesto for Non-Profit CEOs

Sasha Dichter’s latest manifesto.

I’ve met too many nonprofit CEOs who say “I hate fundraising. I don’t fundraise.” If you’re being hired as a nonprofit CEO and the Board tells you that you won’t be fundraising, the’re either misguided or lying.

Tell them they’re wrong. Tell them that you job as a CEO is to be an evangelist for your idea and to convince others about the change you want to see in the world. Tell them that if this idea is worth supporting then they should jump in with both feet and support it with their time and money and by telling their friends it is worth supporting.

Spending your time talking to powerful, influential people about the change you hope to see in the world is a pretty far cry from having fundraising as a “necessary evil.”

Do you really believe that the “real work” is JUST the “programs’ you operate, the school you run, the meals you serve, the vaccines you develop, the patients you treat? Do you really believe that it ends there?

Do you really believe that in today’s world, where change can come from anyone and anywhere, that convincing people and building momentum and excitement and a movement really doesn’t matter?

His latest discussion is about a unique foundation that finally has gotten around to supporting operations in non-profits, not just “projects”. Thank heavens.

As the LA Business Journal reports, the Weingart Foundation has announced that it will “offer unusual ‘core support’ to underwrite administrative costs for social service agencies that provide necessities such as food, shelter and health care to the region’s poor, unemployed and sick.”

This is contrary to normal practice, wherein “Most philanthropic foundations traditionally give large grants that pay the costs of specific programs but do not underwrite non-profits’ operating costs, such as staff salaries and rent. Many non-profits get their operating cash typically from their own fund raisers or from direct donations.”

My point is: the fact that this is newsworthy is a reflection of how far (too far) things have swung in terms of foundation grantmaking to nonprofits. There’s a serious power imbalance here, one that has to change if we are going to increase the impact and efficiency of the nonprofit sector.

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