R. F. S. Part 14: Don’t Whine

Sourced from Philanthropy.com Fund Raisers ‘Don’t Whine’ in a Tough Economy

“Great fund raisers don’t whine about the economy,” Reynold Levy, president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, told participants at the annual Independent Sector meeting. “They believe in Noah’s principle: No more credit for predicting rain. Credit only for building arks.”

Among the types of arks Mr. Levy suggested charities build: a larger, more engaged governing board. Trustees, he said, want to do more than just see their name on a letterhead, and charity leaders ought to raise expectations for how much trustees should give and how much they ought to raise.

He also said that charities ought not be shy about how often they make solicitations – “fund raising is like baseball,” he said, where one hit for every two outs makes for a superstar — and should choose carefully who does the asking.

Donors give to people they admire, not just to causes and organizations they respect,” Mr. Levy said.

And plenty of people, he said, still do have money to give, mostly from gains over the past couple decades, even though they have seen their assets drop recently.

It’s like taking a 20 percent haircut after 300 percent gains,” Mr. Levy said of the downturn.

He also offered an optimistic take on the hit many professional-services firms are experiencing in this tough economy. As more clients cut back on using their services, Mr. Levy said, more lawyers, accountants, and consultants may be available for pro-bono work.

Charities, he said, should take advantage.

Mr. Levy compared being a fund raiser to being a salesman. And, he told participants  who wondered if any of the advice in his book needed updating to fit the new financial realities that, in general, the same rules apply.

There‚s never a bad season, or year, or day, or economic climate for soliciting donations for a worthy cause,” he said.

article originally written by Debra E. Blum


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