Putting The ‘Fun’ into Fundraising


             Duct tape a teacher to the wall for 'Kids Against Hunger'.(*)

Steve Ballmer has a lot of money, You know that because he spent 2 billion dollars a couple of years ago to buy the LA Clippers. How much does he get involved in the day to day business of the Clippers? Not too much.

Malcolm Glazer bought Manchester United in 2003. United has for many years held the title of the world’s most valuable sports franchise. Today that valuation sits at around 2.25 billion dollars. That is nearly half a billion more than the number 2 on that table and yes, more valuable than The LA Dodgers, The Cowboys, The Patriots, The Giants and any other team that you might think should be worth more than a little soccer club in the UK.

How much does the Glazer family (Malcolm no longer walks on planet Earth) or Steve Ballmer affect the brand valuation of their respective teams? Close to zero.

Now, the coaches? The players? The people that do the work? That’s different.

If you don’t believe me - lets just pop back to United for a minute. A team that was managed / coached by Sir Alex Ferguson for some 26 years, in which time they won 38 trophies, 13 Premier League titles (their first was 6 years after Ferguson joined the team), 5 FA Cups and two UEFA Champion League titles.

Since Ferguson retired in 2013, United has taken on David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Lousi Van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho to do Alex’s job. And all the while United as a team is essentially a shambles - and definitely a shadow of its former self.

Same players. Same owner. It’s the coach.

Ever wondered what a coach does? I have been doing some research.

First, great coaches are not necessarily the best players, with obvious exceptions like tennis champion Boris Becker, who coaches even bigger tennis champion Novak Djokovic and Stefan Edberg who was definitely a great tennis player in his time now coaches Roger Federer.

Notice though in both cases, the coach is coaching someone ‘greater than themselves’.

Ferguson himself was a player in Scotland before moving into management. And, while he didn’t exactly suck as a player, he was top goal scorer in Scotland in the 65/66 season for example, but not ‘footballer of the year’ and his team (Dunfermline) ended up fourth in that years League. Players that you may know of from that time include Denis Law - a fellow Scotsman, Bobby Charlton, George Best (Northern Ireland), Nobby Stiles (all Manchester United players in that season) as-well as Booby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters - and if you want to go international think about Pelé and Beckenbauer.

My point is that a coach is not necessarily going to be the best player - there are another set of skills that they bring. Just as true in sport as in Sales.

This makes for an interesting list;

  • Best coach
  • Develops talent
  • Provide strategic guidance
  • High level of personal EQ
  • Good at feedback
  • Teacher
  • Understanding of the product that is being sold
  • Empowerment

… it is from a larger article where a large number of people were asked what attributes makes for a good sales manager … no one listed ‘must be able to sell’ or ‘is the best sales person’. In fact one person actually said “They (sales managers) don’t sell, they solve”.

They don’t sell, they solve

I have spent some time engaged with all kinds of not-for-profits. I am always amazed at how they shy away from introducing real gravitas and/or business experience into their organization - as if it would be frowned on. And it is getting worse. No longer is it only ‘not-for-profits’ that are struggling with how to raise funds. It is everybody.

The start up mentality that is Silicon Valley, is all about how to raise money. Y0u would have thought by now that the process would be ingrained in the region. It isn’t - which is why there is an entire sub culture devoted to presentations, books, blogs, meetings et al - all focussed on how to raise money. Just today, a post about a Fundraising Framework popped up in my stream. Good stuff actually, and proof that we are always learning.

Now, we have start ups being started to help start ups raise money - think Kiva and Kickstarter. Charities, Churches, Hospitals, Schools, Museums, Art Councils, Universities, Politicians … think of any institution and somewhere in there, they are wrestling with how to raise money - which translates to getting donations. But somehow this is still taken as not real business.

As a side note, I am working with a gentleman on a start up idea he has. I had breakfast with him the other day - and his words hit me like a ‘Led Zeppelin’.

You know John, this entire business opportunity is looked down on by business people because it is seen to be a ‘not-for-profit’. I want to change that. This service will be for profit.  I want to show that we can do this better than the current incumbents and make money at the same time. I want to turn this industry upside down.

More of that in a seperate post when we are a bit more advanced. It won’t be long now.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am passionate about Musicians and their struggle to raise money. Patreon and others are emerging to fill that space. But there’s always more to be done and one of the things you have to do is simply get over yourself - and ask, to pick up on Amanda Palmer’s theme.

I raise this because you will be surprised to learn that there are still many musicians who simply cannot ask for what they need. And I am not talking unknowns here. I am talking big name, famous dudes with millions of fans and a back catalogue to die for.

But, my worry is that this is not unusual. This is everywhere. It stems from the fact that we are all afraid to ask for what we want. Imagine the problem if fund raisers are afraid to ask for what they want. (spoiler alert - the answer is money and they are afraid.

Fund Raising

If you look online, you will find that sites like this are very good at articulating different methods to fund raising. To save you the jump, this is the list, click through for the detail.

  • Attracting Individual Support and Donations
  • Soliciting Gifts From Major Donors
  • Holding a Capital Campaign
  • Promoting Legacy Gifts or Planned Giving
  • Raising Money From Business or Sales
  • Applying for Foundation Grants
  • Requesting Corporate Gifts

It’s a good list, but nowhere near as thorough or extensive as these 50 creative ideas as to how you might raise funds.

But lists and ideas are one thing, you and I know it is all about execution. Sit back, evolve your strategy and all is for nought if you don’t execute. And the execution starts with People.

Like every other discipline - there isn’t one way. ‘It takes a village’ as Hilary’s book would have it. And by that I mean, all kinds of disciplines.

Today if you are raising funds, you have to not just think - you actually have to be ‘outside of the box’. Just look at the current US election cycle. Whether you agree with him or not, the fact that Donald Trump is to all intents and purposes runing neck and neck with HRC is extraordinary enough. The fact he is there with a fraction of the expenditure that the Dems have put up is even more amazing.

And what has all of this to do with how I started this article?

Too many people talk about ‘thinking different’, but continue in their old ways. Talk about change and then hang on for dear life as they cling to their old ways. Want to ‘change it up’ and travel in first gear. Recognize that the internet has changed everything - and then essentially ignore it because it ‘doesn’t really apply to them’.

Fund raising is no different. 

If you are looking to raise a significant sum of money, who do you want advising you? The people who gave you money last time? Who were happy to drop you a few million before and will likely do it again? Or do you want people that are outside of the box and tell you how to get others into the fold.

If the people who contributed last time are good to go for round two, what else is the value add? There better be something.

Bernie Sanders campaign committee raised $227,687,274 - nearly one quarter of one billion dollars. That’s his campaign. No superpacs. HIM. And that number is only 40 million shy of HRC’s total so far. But the interesting thing is that Bernie raised nearly three times as much from small individual contributors than Hillary did. There is power in the individual. (On a side note-  Trump has raised just shy of $90 million - of which $50 million is his own money.)

My worry is that people say that they want to approach things differently, but really they don’t’

I am not part of the political machine, never have been, never will.  Even so, last Summer I was approached by the Clinton campaign to see if I was interested in getting involved. I was. At many levels, I was interested enough to see what I could bring to the party … if you will pardon the pun. Over the course of several months I talked with many many different people - expounding ideas, thinking a little different, exploring new processes. One day it all petered way. I still have no idea why the conversation ended, but end it did. Maybe they got busy. But my observation is that the talk at the time was ‘we want to be different’ and that ‘we definitely need to change the general public’s perception of who Hillary is’. Back then Hiilary was not being seen in a favorable light.

Did I say ‘back then’. The point is that the words were right but the campaign they ran / are running is the same traditonal campaign we have come to expect. Nothing has actually changed and the problem they were trying to fix are still there.

Unfortunately, I don’t just think it is the political parties that talk differently and act the same. I think we all do it. That is why we struggle. That is why there will be ongoing failures. That is why if you are in fund raising, you need to bring on the coaches, mentors, advisors and workers that will make you sit up and be different. That is exactly why Apple wins. And why the establishment doesn’t understand them.

Remember it isn’t the heavy hitters that will solve your problems. The best sales person isn’t the best sales manager and the person who buys the team understands - in no uncertain terms  - that they own the team. They do not run it. At least, if they want to win.

(*) The photo was taken by Mary Noble and originally featured in this article.

This article was first posted on BizCatalyst on Monday August 1st.

August 1, 2016