Fundraising 101

When consulting on the subject of fundraising my emphasis is acknowledging how critical it is that the whole organization be in sync on every aspect of these endeavors. It is understood how critical the reliance towards fundraising is for organizations to survive, and support their constituency.

I formerly raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for charitable, non-profit and all venues of sponsorship. The majority of time my volunteerism was appreciated; and sometimes (actually many, many times) not. For this reason, I’ve always considered those with solicitor responsibilities as truly “special people.”

Many of us have been in the positions within organizations to solicit sponsorship, memberships or seek donations. One can’t argue the legitimacy in doing so; the money raised serves to support countless, worthy causes.

Many of us have been in the positions within organizations to solicit sponsorship, memberships or seek donations. One can’t argue the legitimacy in doing so; the money raised serves to support countless, worthy causes. Without the funding support of contributions, donations or gifts so many causes and countless organizations would be referenced by the term “former”. If you’ve ever been worn the badge as a “fundraiser,” when successful, it’s a “high” and when not, well it’s a “downer” that’s for sure.

The success in one’s pursuits to raise money is reliant on many factors. Usually the most successful are those with legitimate and pure essence (without scandal or controversy). When consulted on how to attain success in fundraising my questions start with:

1) Do You Believe in Your Purpose?

If you believe in your cause your efforts to sell, solicit and advocate for your group will flow with grand determination. If you don’t, you’ll only be going through the motions and the results will not meet potential.

2) Do You Know Whom You’re Representing?

You likely are harming your organization if you attempt to sell “blindly”.  My interpretation of the term is not knowing the basic information as who serves on the board or executive staff; the purpose of your organization and other relevancy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered fundraising associates without a clue of whom they’re representing.

3) Donation or Partnership

Is your a 501-C3 or 501-C6 exempt organization status? A C3 qualifies donations to be tax deductible; a C6 does not. Some organizations may have both however, many do not. I have witnessed corporate reps face internal turmoil when a contribution to a scholarship fundraiser did not qualify as a deductible expense. Know the rules of the game you’re playing; as the stakes are high, there are no reset buttons and others may be impacted by your actions.

BEWARE of Roadblock People

I categorize “Roadblock People” as those corporate representatives who are either: self-serving; or those who seem to consistently reply with the word “no.” Some of these individuals do not realize companies have them in place for this reason (I know of a few that have been in that roles for years!).

These representatives might be regular contributors, but the disservice to the companies they represent and/or the communities they should be supporting is they become ineffective to identify new partnership opportunities. My advice will always to be courteous and respectful to road-blockers (some are really nice people and don’t even realize they are members of this fraternity), but if you’re determined not to take no for an answer, companies may offer multiple sources of income: education, charitable, supplier diversity, partnership, foundation etc. Don’t assume initial responses are written in stone, observe and use what you learn for future scenarios. Create a playbook so you may identify “key” personnel, corporate interests and identify funding specifics for your future endeavors.

A Thing Called Ethics

Your role in fundraising for an organization places a spotlight on you with your interactions scrutinized, so my recommendations are to strive to maintain high integrity.

One area that must not be ignored is adherence to the commitment. A sponsor should expect to receive the agreed deliverable; anything less is unacceptable. Furthermore, follow “common sense” rules when managing funding agreements. Some “ridiculous becomes reality” moments I’ve witnessed include: omitting recognition of sponsorship in programs; offering Coca-Cola only at a Pepsi sponsored event, and one group selling only Coors beer at a community event funded by Budweiser.

The Emphasis of Thanks

Extending thanks to contributors and financial supporters is of prime importance. This message should be conveyed throughout the organization (board members, staff, associates) to communicate to investors. Like a tree of fruit financial contributors should be maintained and nurtured, so the fruits can be shared by all.

In an abbreviated manner, I’ve only briefly commented on this imperative subject for all organizations. Your organization’s success to maintain and expand upon its funding sources is paramount to serving members and community.

Success in All Your Endeavors…


Al "Skip" Solorzano
SKIP is a recognized expert in the field of diversity with keen ability to build strategic alliances, and successfully expand supplier diversity initiatives. He has consulted with multiple client sectors including pharmaceutical, insurance, manufacturing, health care, telecommunications, utilities nonprofit organizations, business entities and employee groups. As a facilitator and learning consultant presents unique perspectives to develop solutions; and promote qualities to successfully work with others through diversity, team-building and leadership development. Solorzano has been featured as a presenter at conferences sponsored by such entities as: AT&T, The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Social Security Administration. A former Governor appointee and member of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Solorzano has been recognized by United Way as Most Influential Hispanics of the Bay Area; and a recipient of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Corporate Advocate of the Year award. Skip’s career endeavors as a corporate liaison, community leader and entrepreneur, provides the unique insight to write on an array of subject matter from learning processes; diversity; with a shared humorous perspective of life.

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