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Getting Personal: Part 2 – The Change is Getting Real

Just before Thanksgiving I published my last post, Getting Personal: Part 1 – Reflections on the Nature of Change. In that post I explained why we left our well established lives and employment in New York’s Adirondack region rather abruptly and moved to coastal South Carolina.

When we made that move six months ago I fully expected that I would be unemployed on July 1 and would switch gears by starting a full time consulting business. Fortunately for me, my employer allowed me to continue working remotely till the end of the year, giving me more time to plan for the future. Now the future is here!

Two years ago I started this website, DonorcentricDevelopment, as a blog site with the intention of sharing my thoughts about fundraising and offering links to fundraising resources for nonprofits.

The impetus for the blog site came from a conversation at a chamber of commerce mixer a few months earlier. A nonprofit management consultant introduced me to another person attending the event by saying, “This is Bates Childress, he’s a fundraiser, so watch your wallet.” I quickly tried to reframe the introduction by saying, “I am the senior development officer at the hospital, and my role there is to help our donors meet their philanthropic goals. I promise not to pick your pocket.”

Of course I knew that she was trying to be humorous, but her remark struck a chord. It made me a little sad, and it made me a little angry. But most important, it made me realize that there are deep-seated misconceptions, even within the nonprofit community, regarding what nonprofit fundraising is all about. And it made me question why that is.

The reality is that small nonprofits are understaffed and under resourced. In addition to guiding a nonprofit to achieve its mission, many board chairs and executive directors find themselves wearing multiple hats – accountant, IT specialist, HR director, even housekeeper, among other jobs. The mission critical tasks of fundraising get pushed aside by louder, more immediate problems, until suddenly, one day, cashflow becomes the organization’s biggest problem. The result is that fundraising often comes in fits and starts, in the form of desperate appeals, to make payroll or keep the lights on. Donors who believe in the mission are reduced to ATM machines, contacted only when an organization needs cash.

The chaotic cycle leads to resentment as well as the stereotypes about fundraisers begging for help. It is not a pathway for success. Desperation fundraising not only impedes an organization’s ability to thrive and grow, it alienates donors, and at its worst it can result in an organization closing its doors.

That conversation over two years ago made me think about what I could do to change the way people think about fundraising, and that led to the blog posts aimed at nonprofit staff, board members and volunteers to help demystify raising money.

It also led to my desire to focus my post hospital career consulting and coaching nonprofit organizations to do a better job at fundraising by helping them raise more money in ways that build engagement and excitement rather than resentment.

That’s my why!

Figuring out the how will be an ongoing process, and I am open to your input. Send me your suggestions for blog topics. What do you want to hear about?. And don’t be shy about referring me to organizations who might be interested in what I have to offer. You can find me at [email protected] or 518-313-1853.

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