What is art?


What is art


Art in all its forms is both an intimate and accessible tool
We can be the judge, the appreciator or sometimes fool
Visual, music, vocal, literature and dance transformations
Forces minds to sharpen and changes attitudes of nations

Art transforms longing souls and contemplative faces
Enlivens hearts and transports you to other places
It washes over your mind, body and soul as an illusion
And provokes heated debate and the need for conclusion

Artists create, they do not kill with their technique
Each masterpiece adds spirit and gives thrills unique
Necessary for civilized life, creativity, and magnificence
Art deserves more financial support to maintain its significance

If you happen to work for an arts non-profit organization and are struggling with funding, I have some free advice as to how you can get organized to attract more money.

None of this is new in the fundraising profession, but from my experience working with several arts organizations in the past 30+ years, there are some suggested questions you must answer to ensure a more secure future. I have left the most important one to the end of this blog. The items preceding have equal weight but must be considered first because they are about “people” who carry out your mission.

Examine your board of directors
Are they the most qualified members of your community interested in your work? Do they believe you should have an adequate budget to achieve your goals? Are they willing to learn more about the role of the board in fundraising to help further the goals of your organization? Do they understand there are hundreds of ways they can move the organizations’ fundraising initiatives forward? Are they able to commit their most generous donation to your organization?

Examine your staff resources
Do you have enough people to carry out the work of your organization? Have you involved volunteers beyond board volunteers in conducting the mandate? Is your key staff leader paid sufficiently to stay involved long enough to make a difference or is it a stop gap measure?

Examine your supporters
How often do you communicate with your donors? Do you know all the potential supporters of your organization? When was the last time when you asked for money? Do you have a cultivation plan for new or prospective supporters? A stewardship plan for those that support you? How many ways have you communicated with your key donors? What have been your key messages to date?

Examine your mission
Does every member of the board of directors understand your mission? Is it a passionate mission? Does it excite you? Does it sound like it was carved by someone who does not have the passion of your best supporter? What is your most emotive mission?

Examine your Development Committee
Oh, you don’t have one? Create one. You can start small but recruit board members who want to help with fundraising and non-board volunteers who are interested. Set out terms of reference, an organizational chart and expectations. Create subcommittees such as Events, Planned Giving, Endowment, Major Gifts, Annual Appeal, Sponsorships, etc.

Examine your Case for Support
Writing the Case for Support is where we lose most people as fundraiser’s/consultants. Most people do not know how to tell their story – WHY someone should support them. They get caught up in talking about themselves – as if – they have to sell the organization. You do not need to do that as a priority. Donors/Supporters want to know how you will keep their interest and how you have been meeting their needs. Best not to use “I” in your communications but rather speak in the third person – in the voice of your “best donor”. The case for support is the main document with all your arguments for everything you do. It’s a background paper. You pull information from it for your fundraising initiatives. It will be your best investment of time, staff and volunteers.

My best advice comes from NIKE© – Just do it!

There are many more elements you should be doing such as regular strategic planning and revisiting it several times during the year rather than annually. I hope you get my points. If you need any help with this – I am available.

Until the next blog,

Pam Simmons

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Begging for Help/This is who I am

fundraising by begging
This who I am

Begging Blog 1 RSCN3989

This is who I am
With my arm outstretched asking for your help
A lost son, a sad father, a distant brother or an unknown uncle
Living humbly to survive

This is who I am
No shoes on my feet
Only a coat as a cover and a hat for protection and my work
With a body propped by a cane

This is who I am
On a lonely path with a life of daily struggles
That takes away pride and hope
I want to survive today  – and I need your help

This is who I am
I stand in front of this church everyday
Because it attracts people who may care about me
I approach knowing that you may help  – that you will walk away
Never seeing who I really am

Begging is one of the most primitive forms of fundraising. There are few skills needed and unfortunately, it brings in small change. In my work as a fundraising consultant, I have witnessed many nonprofit staff and volunteers shortchanging the work of their charities by focussing on fundraising activities that attract small change. Begging has no place in charitable fundraising if real results are to be realized.

Charities have a greater purpose beyond serving individual: they have  causes benefitting a diverse group of people. The case of the solitary beggar in this image is a symptom of a bigger issue – that of the thousands of  homelessness people who need help. Offering dignity and a transformed life to people living in this situation can only happen with larger gifts.

There are many ways you can improve your fundraising to get out of the perpetual “begging” small change rut. Here are 8 of my favourite ways. Feel free to offer your suggestions as well.

1. Reduce reliance on special events and raffles that barely have break-even returns.  They  consume time and energy  that could be directed at obtaining  larger gifts.
2. Never ever put anyone on the spot by asking for a gift until they are ready to be asked – you will inevitably leave money on the table.
3. Have a clear, preconceived plan and longer range strategy that will really change lives and take your work efforts to much greater heights.
4. Implement fundraising strategies that set you distinctly apart from other charities. Innovation is the key.
5. If you do not have an experienced fundraiser on board, make resources available for training (online/offline)to get them up to speed quickly. Also, hiring a consultant to mentor your staff and its board of directors on the best ways to fundraise for your organization can speed up training schedule dramatically.
6. Communicate with, cultivate and steward your most committed donors through a major gift program.
7. Develop a monthly giving program that will make it possible for people to give progressively larger funds from a modest monthly donation of funds.
8. Use a reputable fundraising software system (not excel workbooks) to manage your lists of donors and prospects.
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