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October 17, 2012


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Jim Schaffer

I think we are OK for a while, Phil. Thankfully, almost all giving still remains relational. Most individual donors give without much research or making demands. For all their blustering about changing philanthropy as if these new thought leaders invented the concept, if they could simply answer one question: Why is it that whether the economy is booming or busting private giving has remained the same for as long as giving has been measured -- 2%+/- of GDP. All the "new" ideas put forth in all those books through all the generations -- no change, except the number of charities has exploded along with books on how to do philanthropy better.


Do you notice a difference when the giving is from a foundation that the donor has had for awhile?

Christine Egger

On the "helping smaller nonprofits figure out what and how to measure, and how to communicate about that":

Beth Kanter and K.D. Paine's recent book http://measurenetworkednonprofit.org comes to mind. And all of the work NTEN has been doing (http://nten.org, especially their CHANGE publication) to bring small nonprofits up-to-speed on the this conversation (and help them leverage it to the benefit of their beneficiaries and mission). fyi NTEN has 11,000 members, and an annual conference attended by a few thousand, mix of Executive Directors and all kinds of staff.

Jeff Shuck of event360.org is one of my favorite sources, too.

As for "how to help a smaller nonprofit catch the attention and support of venture capitalists", the devil/opportunity is in the details. There's clearly a growing opportunity for many nonprofits to think differently about how they might fund their work through sales of products or services to their beneficiaries or others. Asking people for money because they care about something, and asking people to buy something because they want a product/service, are two very different things. So maybe many of the fundraisers you talk to won't be a part of that conversation. But if you start with the mission, involve them in a brainstorming of all of the ways that mission could be accomplished including what their organization is doing now AND including possible revenue-generating programs, and then do a second round of brainstorming around where fundraising would play a role in either seeding, strengthening, or scaling the market part... maybe the answer to "why are you talking with me about this?" will come from that.

Apologies if this all comes across as way too basic to be helpful, but in essence I'm not sure at all that "missing the point, or not finding anything relevant" about the topics you're touching on here has anything to do with being a small or new nonprofit. It has much more to do with the nonprofit's mission and whether it can be fulfilled via no-boomerang-attached-to-these-dollars, return-on-investment-dollars, something in between, or some combination of all of the above.

Phil Cubeta

Thank you, Christine, your points are well taken, I will follow your links and references for further research.

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