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fundraising strategy

Financing Not Fundraising: Assess Your Nonprofit’s Financial Model

moneyI am amazed by the reaction of some nonprofit leaders when faced with a budget shortfall. Some simply shake their head in innocent confusion, some blame an “inexperienced” development director or a “checked-out” board, and others throw together a knee-jerk fundraising event in order to stem the tide.

But a much better approach, when you don’t have the money your nonprofit needs, is to step back and assess the viability of your nonprofit’s overall money function, which is the topic of today’s installment in the ongoing Financing Not Fundraising series.

If you want greater, more reliable funding for your nonprofit, you must get strategic. And the first step to any real strategy is analysis.

Instead of viewing the money that flows to your nonprofit as a side note, or worse, a completely uncontrollable force, you must view money as a very necessary and integrated function that is just as important as your nonprofit’s programmatic function. And in order to determine how well your money function operates and how to transform it, you must assess it.

A transformative financial model assessment uncovers how all aspects of the organization contribute to or detract from money flowing through the doors. It analyzes the financial impact of 7 areas of the organization, like this:

  1. Strategy
    Does your nonprofit have a long-term strategy that integrates money, programs and operations? Does your strategy help articulate the value your nonprofit provides the community in order to compel outsiders to invest? Does your strategy include measures for whether that value is actually being created?

  2. Mission and Vision
    Does your nonprofit have clear, compelling vision and mission statements? The two statements are not “nice to have” marketing language, rather they articulate the very essence of why your nonprofit exists. Does your vision paint a bold description of the social change you seek? Does your mission describe the day-to-day work towards that vision?

  3. Board and Staff Leadership
    Does your board have the skills, experience and networks necessary to execute on your strategic plan? Are they engaged and invested? Are they actively connecting the organization to people, resources, partnerships? Does your staff have the knowledge and experience necessary to make money flow? And are they structured and managed effectively?

  4. Program Delivery and Impact
    As a nonprofit you have two sets of “customers.” Those you serve (or your “clients”), and those who fund those services (or your “donors”). Without a compelling and effective delivery of services to clients, donors won’t fund those services. Is your nonprofit strategic about which programs to grow and which to cut? Do you measure the effect of your programs on clients? Are your programs financially viable, or are too many of your programs mission-rich, but cash-poor?

  5. Marketing and Communications
    Do you make a compelling case for your work and for support of it? Once you’ve made the case, are you using the right marketing channels (website, social media, events, email, etc.) to attract and engage your target funders, volunteers, advocates, board members and other supporters?

  6. External Partnerships
    In order to move the mission forward and in order to attract funders, volunteers, advocates you must be strategic about building alliances that make sense. Do you have the necessary external relationships to execute on your strategy? Are you constantly working to strengthen or grow the right partnerships in the right ways?

  7. Financial Model
    And only now do we look specifically at money. Because without all the previous elements (thoughtful strategy, compelling vision and mission, strong leadership) money simply will not follow. Does your funding mix fit well with your mission and core competencies? Are there other revenue streams that make sense to pursue? Are there fundraising activities that are actually costly rather than profitable?

When money isn’t working the way you want it to, don’t stick your head in the sand. Wrest the money sword from the beast of chance by taking a hard look at your nonprofit’s money function.

If you want to learn more about the Financial Model Assessment I provide clients, click here. And if you want to learn more about the Financing Not Fundraising approach, download the newest e-book in the Financing Not Fundraising series, Financing Not Fundraising volume 3.

Photo Credit: Pen Waggener

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New Year, New (More Effective) Nonprofit Fundraising Plan

Nonprofit financial modelIf I had one wish for the nonprofit sector in this new year it would be for nonprofits to get much smarter about money and finally start using it as a robust, strategic tool for creating more social change.

But you can’t get smarter about something that you fear, or don’t understand, or avoid, or can’t access.

Which is why I’m really excited about one of the new tool bundles I’m offering in the newly revamped Tools section of my website. The Develop a Financial Model Tool Bundle  provides the guidance you need to create a financing plan for your nonprofit in this new year.

A financing plan (as opposed to a fundraising plan) is a long-term strategy for bringing enough money in the door to achieve your mission, ultimately bringing you closer to creating sustainable social change.

The Develop a Financial Model Tool Bundle will help move your board, staff and donors to truly understand a financing approach and give you the roadmap for developing your nonprofit’s own financing plan. It will help move your nonprofit from the exhausting hamster wheel of fundraising to a robust, sustainable financial model.

The tool bundle includes 4 components:

  1. The Financing Not Fundraising, vol. 1 E-book that describes the theory behind moving from fundraising to financiFinancing Not Fundraisingng, why financing is a much more sustainable and effective approach, and how to begin moving your organization to a much more sustainable way of thinking about and securing money.

  2. The Financing Not Fundraisng, vol. 2 E-book expands on the ideas behind a financing approach, Fnf vol 2gives concrete examples of this new approach, and describes how to change your, and your board and donors’ thinking in order to fully make the switch to this new approach of financing your work.

  3. The 60-minute Create a Financing Plan On-Demand Webinar moves you from embracing the theory of a financing approach fin plan webinarto fully understanding what a financing plan is, how it differs from a fundraising plan, the framework for a plan, and the steps necessary to create one. This webinar can be watched whenever you want and however many times you need.

  4. The Build a Nonprofit Financing Plan Step-by-Step Guide is the final piece of the puzzle. This guide helps you create your nonprofit’s own financing plan.fin plan guide The guide walks you, step-by-step, through the questions, calculations and frameworks you need to build your nonprofit’s financing plan.

This Develop a Financial Model Tool Bundle takes you from understanding the theory behind a financing approach all the way to creating your nonprofit’s own financing plan. As a bundle, the cost is 15% less than the cost of purchasing the e-books, guide and webinar separately. Download the Develop a Financial Model Tool Bundle Now.

This tool bundle, along with all of the other guides, e-books, webinars and bundles available on the Tools page, is designed for smaller and younger nonprofits that may not have the resources to seek customized consulting help, or just need some initial guidance to find a new way on their own.

But if you would rather find out about the customized consulting I provide for creating a financing plan and/or coaching your board and staff to adopt this new approach, let me know.


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New Financing Not Fundraising, Vol. 3 E-book

Financing Not Fundraising vol 3I am delighted to announce today’s release of the newest volume in the Financing Not Fundraising e-book series, Financing Not Fundraising, vol. 3.

The idea behind Financing Not Fundraising is that the traditional way nonprofit leaders, boards and donors have approached funding the work of nonprofits doesn’t work anymore. Traditional nonprofit fundraising forces nonprofits to work harder and harder for a smaller and smaller return. Nonprofits must break free from this vicious cycle and take a much more strategic approach to securing the overall financing necessary to achieve their goals.

The first step in this process is to fully integrate money with the mission and core competencies of the organization. In creating such a strategic financial model for her organization, a nonprofit leader will be setting her organization on a path towards financial sustainability, growth, and ultimately change to the social problem her nonprofit attempts to address.

The Financing Not Fundraising, vol. 3 E-book expands on the basic elements of the Financing Not Fundraising model and helps those nonprofit leaders who are ready to start moving away from fundraising to really dive into this new approach.

Contained in this e-book are new ways of thinking, new tools of analysis, new questions to ask. All with the intent of pushing your staff, your board, even your donors, to fund your work in a more effective and sustainable way.

Here are the chapters in the Financing Not Fundraising, vol. 3 E-book:

  1. Overcome Nonprofit Taboos
  2. Remove Money Hurdles
  3. Find and Keep a Great Fundraiser
  4. Recruit a Money Raising Board
  5. Set a High Board Fundraising Bar
  6. Enlighten Your Donors
  7. Break Free From the Starvation Cycle
  8. Create Donor Personas
  9. Calculate Opportunity Costs
  10. Stop Apologizing
  11. Get Started

If you are tired of hitting your head against the unmovable fundraising wall, I invite you to explore a new way of sustainably financing the critical work you do.

You can download the Financing Not Fundraising vol. 3 e-book here. And you can download the entire Financing Not Fundraising e-book series here.


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Advancing Philanthropy: Moving from Fundraising to Financing

movingNote: I wrote the following article for the Summer Issue of Advancing Philanthropy. You can download the Nonprofit Finance section of the magazine, of which this article is part, on the Association of Fundraising Professionals website here.

It has been a really difficult few years for nonprofits, particularly their fundraisers. But the bad news is that the situation won’t get easier any time soon. In order to keep up, nonprofit leaders have to recognize that traditional fundraising doesn’t work anymore.

In fact, traditional fundraising is holding nonprofits back by forcing them to wear out their boards, staffs, and donors, focus efforts on low-return activities, subsist with inadequate technology and infrastructure, and ultimately distance them from their missions.

Nonprofits must emerge from the broken fundraising mold and instead develop a sustainable financing strategy that will bring mission to fruition.  That means that nonprofits have to break out of the narrow view that traditional fundraising (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) will completely fund all of their activities.  Instead, nonprofits must take a big step back and create an overall financing strategy. Nonprofits must move from fundraising to financing.

And this fundamental shift needs to happen not just because of a poor economy, but also because of deeper, long-term shifts in our world.

Donors are changing. A recent study by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy found that the next generation of donors is very different than preceding generations. The study looked at Millennial and GenX donors (wealthy individuals, or individuals who will inherit wealth, born between 1964-2000). These donors will control more philanthropic dollars than any previous generation — it’s estimated that $41 trillion will transfer from the Baby Boom to these next generations in the next 40 years. And these donors, unlike their predecessors, are focusing their money on nonprofits that demonstrate change to a social problem, or impact. According to the report, “They see previous generations as more motivated by a desire for recognition or social requirements, while they see themselves as focused on impact, first and foremost.”

At the same time, the fundraising function at most nonprofits is showing real signs of strain. A recent study by CompassPoint reveals that executive directors and their fundraisers are fundamentally unhappy with the results that fundraising achieves. Twenty-five percent of executive directors fired their last development director and 33% are lukewarm about their current one. While 50% of development directors plan to leave within the next two years.

In order to stay relevant to donors, be sustainable and achieve their missions, nonprofits need to shift from fundraising to financing.

Here’s what a financing approach looks like.

Move to Impact
It is no longer enough for nonprofits to just do good work. There is a growing demand for nonprofits to 1) articulate what results they hope their work will achieve, and 2) track whether those results are actually happening. Nonprofits have long discussed the outputs of their work: number of people served, number of services provided. But the sector is increasingly being asked to articulate and track the outcomes they are achieving. How are people’s lives changing because of the work a nonprofit does? Increasing competition for shrinking dollars means nonprofits must develop their own theory of change (how they use community resources to create change to a social problem) and then measure whether that theory is becoming a reality. The more a nonprofit can talk about outcomes and impact, the more donors it will attract.

Connect Mission and Money

The financial woes of nonprofits often stem from a misalignment of mission and money. A nonprofit leader who creates a financial engine for her organization that is fully connected to and supportive of the mission (instead of detracting or isolated from it) will enjoy financial sustainability. Nonprofits must make money one of the goals of the strategic plan of the organization and no longer separate fundraising from mission.  All elements of a nonprofit’s operations, including the moneymaking ones, must be fully integrated and moving forward together.

Create a Financing Plan

Once money and mission are connected, a nonprofit leader must create a comprehensive strategy for bringing enough, and the right kind of, money in the door to achieve his strategic goals. This includes revenue and capital, programs and infrastructure dollars, and all funding sources. Money must be understood and used as a tool, instead of feared or ignored. A financing plan integrates all activities that bring money in the door (individual donors, foundation grants, earned income, government contracts) and funds both the short and long term goals, as well as the programs and infrastructure of the organization.

Diversify Funding
Relying on only one or two funding sources, particularly foundation grants — which make up less than 2% of all the money flowing to the nonprofit sector, is a dangerous strategy. It is far better to create a robust and diverse money mix that fits well with and builds on the nonprofit’s mission and competencies.

Find Money to Build
In such a stark economic environment those nonprofits that don’t have adequate infrastructure simply will not survive, let alone be able to adequately address the social problem they were organized to solve. Nonprofit leaders must become savvy about capacity capital and start raising the money they need to build the organization their mission requires. There are two kinds of money in the sector: revenue and capital. Revenue is the day-to-day money necessary to run programs (staff, beds in a homeless shelter, books in a reading program). Capital is a one-time infusion of significant money to strengthen or grow the organization so that it can create more impact. The band-aid reality of inadequate technology, underpaid staffs, and underfunded systems that riddle the nonprofit sector is not sustainable. A nonprofit will only get better at delivering impact if it has an effective organization behind its work.

So how do you go about creating a financing plan for your nonprofit? Here are the steps:

  1. Develop a Budget for Your Strategic Plan
    The most important first step in creating a financing plan is connecting money to the work of your strategic plan. It continues to amaze me how many nonprofits create a strategic plan but attach no dollars to it. If you truly want to bring your strategic plan to fruition, you must connect that plan to the money it will take to execute on it. Go through your strategic plan and ask yourself how much it will cost to make the strategic plan a reality. Project those expenses out over the time frame of the strategic plan. If you have a 3-year strategic plan, determine what your organization’s expenses must be each year over the next three years in order to achieve the goals of your strategic plan.

  2. Create Revenue Goals

    To meet these expenses of your strategic plan, your final financing plan will have approximately 5 broad goals. These goals come in three types: revenue goals, a capital goal, and a financing infrastructure goal. Revenue is the day-to-day money you need to meet the expenses of your strategic plan. You will have 1 revenue goal for each revenue source that is appropriate to your organization (private dollars from foundations, corporations and/or individuals; government dollars; and earned income – the sale of goods or services). Your revenue goals will make up 3 of the 5 goals of your final financing plan.

  3. Create a Capital Goal 

    As mentioned earlier, capital is the one-time organization-building money you need to fund special or infrastructure-related purchases within your strategic plan. It might be the money you need for a program evaluation, or a new data-gathering system, or a new database. If you require capital investments to make your strategic plan a reality, one of the goals of your financing plan will be a capital goal.

  4. Create a Financing Infrastructure Goal 

    The last goal of your financing plan should focus on what improvements you will make to the internal systems, staffing and technology you use to bring money in the door. This goal is not a money goal, but rather an activity goal. If you want to significantly grow the revenue that flows to your nonprofit you will have to make some improvements to the financing infrastructure of your organization. This means you might want to add additional development staff, buy a new donor database, upgrade your website, or create marketing materials.

  5. Create Objectives

    Each of the goals in your financing plan will be broken down into objectives (or pieces) to make them achievable. For example, you might have a revenue goal that describes how much private money you will raise. You would then break that total private revenue goal into the individual donor, corporate donor, and foundation grant objectives necessary to achieve that goal.

  6. Create an Operational Plan

    Once you establish your goals and objectives you will break each objective into the activities, deliverables, people responsible, and due dates necessary. This becomes your very tactical operational plan with which you will execute on and monitor the financing plan. It ensures that the goals and objectives actually come to fruition.

In the end, the goals and objectives of a nonprofit’s financing plan might look like this:

Fiscal Years 2014-2016 Financing Plan

1.    Goal 1: Raise $548,625 annually from private sources by 2016

  • Objective 1: Raise $288,750 from individuals by 2016
  • Objective 2: Raise $86,625 annually from corporations by 2016
  • Objective 3: Raise $173,250 annually from foundations by 2016

2.    Goal 2: Raise $346,500 annually from government sources by 2016

  • Objective 1: Raise $120,500 from county grant by 2016
  • Objective 2: Raise $226,000 from federal grant by 2016

3.    Goal 3: Raise $17,325 annually from earned income sources by 2016

  • Objective 1: Raise $5,000 from t-shirt sales
  • Objective 2: Raise $12,325 from classes

4.    Goal 4: Raise $220,000 in capital

5.    Goal 5: Improve our financing infrastructure in order to meet our revenue and capital goals

  • Objective 1: Increase the staff and board’s ability to bring money in the door by adding positions and training
  • Objective 2: Add key technology
  • Objective 3: Improve the quality and effectiveness of our marketing efforts

You would then be ready to create the very tactical operational plan to bring each of these goals and objectives to life.

It’s not just semantics. There really is a better way.  Nonprofits don’t have to wear out their fundraisers, their donors, their staffs and their messages.  By creating a financing strategy, as opposed to a fundraising plan, a nonprofit can get a lot closer to sustainable social change.

If you’d like to explore how I can help your nonprofit develop a Financing Plan, visit the Financing Plan Consulting page of the website.

Photo Credit: MIT Libraries

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Could Your Nonprofit Raise More Money?

Can Your Nonprofit Raise More Money?It is the ultimate question isn’t it? But often one that a nonprofit leader can’t answer on her own.

I see it all the time. A nonprofit leader wants to expand services to meet growing demand, or she is frustrated with a stalled fundraising effort, or concerned that a key revenue source is drying up, or lacks the staff or expertise to analyze where to diversify their fundraising efforts. She wants to raise more money, but she doesn’t know how to prioritize resources to do so.

But a Financial Model Assessment can turn the tide.

A Financial Model Assessment can be eye-opening and, ultimately, game changing. It can give your nonprofit a deep understanding of where you need to focus your efforts and a clear road map for growing the financial viability of your organization.

A Financial Model Assessment is for nonprofits that want (or need) to raise more money, but don’t know how to get there.

Here are the steps I go through in a Financial Model Assessment:

Interview Board, Staff, Funders
I conduct in-depth, one-on-one interviews with the executive director, revenue-generating staff, key board members, and some funders and others outside the nonprofit to understand what is working and what isn’t.

Analyze the Current Organization
I analyze all organization documents, policies, procedures, financials, systems, and materials to understand the internal and external processes for raising money. But because a nonprofit’s ability to raise money depends on much more than their fundraising efforts, I look at six areas of the organizational structure to determine how well they contribute to fundraising effectiveness, these areas are:

  • Mission and Vision
  • Overall Strategy
  • Board and Staff
  • Program Delivery and Impact
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Infrastructure and Systems

Uncover Opportunities for Current and Potential Funding
I look at all current and potential funding streams to uncover opportunities for increases. I also review all aspects of the organization’s back-end functionality for raising money (such as donor database, materials, systems, technology) in order to uncover areas for increased efficiencies.

Provide a Road Map to Grow Revenue
I create  a 20-30 page detailed analysis with recommended actions for increasing funding streams. I present the assessment and recommendations in-person to staff and board for an engaging session of questions and discussion.The nonprofits that receive the completed Financial Model Assessment hold in their hands an in-depth analysis of where they need to focus time and resources in order to increase the funding flowing to their organization. Often the Financial Model Assessment is the catalyst for big insights among board and staff and sets the organization on a path toward fundamental changes to how they bring money in the door.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. With a clear road map, your nonprofit can move from financial insecurity to financial sustainability.

To learn more, check out the Financial Model Assessment consulting page, or email me at to discuss whether a Financial Model Assessment is right for your nonprofit.

Photo Credit: Images_of_Money

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A Contest to Help Your Nonprofit Raise More Money

A Contest to Help Your Nonprofit Raise More MoneyAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I am leading a Financing Not Fundraising E-Course for nonprofit leaders who are ready to create a more sustainable financial engine for their nonprofit. I would like to give one nonprofit that can’t afford the registration fee the opportunity to participate in the class for free.

But because this E-Course requires not only a financial investment, but more importantly an investment of time and mind-share, I want to select a nonprofit leader who has a compelling case for why they are ready to move their nonprofit from fundraising to financing. So I am introducing this contest.

To recap, the Financing Not Fundraising E-Course will take a small group of nonprofit leaders who are ready to chart a more sustainable financial future for their nonprofit from fundraising to financing.

Over the course of two months under my guidance you will:

•    Undertake a comprehensive fundraising assessment of your nonprofit
•    Gain new money-raising ideas
•    Create a detailed financing plan
•    Hear from other nonprofit leaders in your shoes, and
•    Learn how to move your organization forward

To watch a video that describes the Financing Not Fundraising E-Course in more detail go here.

If you’d like to enter to win a free registration to the Financing Not Fundraising E-Course, fill out the form below. The nonprofit leader who makes the most compelling case for why they are ready to take their organization to the next level will be selected this Wednesday, May 1st. So submit your entry soon.

Update: A contest winner was selected so the contest is now closed.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

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Announcing New Financing Not Fundraising E-Course for Nonprofit Leaders

e-course slideI’ve been talking lately about nonprofits needing to make more investments in their organization, in their sustainability, and in their future. Well, I have the perfect opportunity for you to do just that. I’m excited to announce the newest Social Velocity tool — the Financing Not Fundraising E-Course. Over the course of two months I will be leading a group of 15 nonprofit Executive and Development Directors to determine what’s holding them back from raising more money and create a comprehensive financing plan for their organizations.

This e-course will take you from Fundraising to Financing. We’ll start with a fundraising assessment of where your organization currently is in your efforts to bring money in the door, and we’ll end with a comprehensive, actionable financing plan to move your organization forward.

Here’s how it will work:

  • We’ll kick off with a webinar to help everyone understand what a fundraising assessment looks like and what it includes.
  • Everyone will be sent away to complete the detailed fundraising assessment I will provide them.
  • I will then analyze each individual fundraising assessment.
  • The 15 participants will be split into two groups. I will lead a 90-minute coaching session with each group to go individual-by-individual to explain what their fundraising assessment revealed and where they should focus their change efforts.
  • After the coaching sessions I’ll host an informal Google Hangout where participants can discuss questions, hurdles they are encountering, where they need help.
  • Then I’ll lead a second webinar to explain how to create a financing plan.
  • I’ll give everyone a Financing Plan template and detailed instructions on how to create their own financing plan.
  • Then I’ll analyze everyone’s completed financing plan.
  • We’ll do a second round of coaching sessions where I will go individual-by-individual to explain where their financing plans can be improved.
  • We’ll end with a final Google Hangout where everyone can discuss, ask questions, get support and move forward.
  • And throughout the process you can always reach out to me via phone and email with additional questions or for guidance.

The registration fee for the e-course is $499.

Of course I’m biased, but to me this investment just makes sense. With this e-course you can set your nonprofit on a path to a much larger, more sustainable financial engine. This is about making an investment now in order to enjoy a much larger payoff down the road.

If you want to learn more about the e-course, click here. Or, if you have additional questions or wonder if the e-course is right for you, email me at

If you’d like to join us, register soon. The e-course is limited to 15 people, and it’s already filling fast.

I hope to see you there!

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Stop Beating Your Head Against the Nonprofit Fundraising Wall

wallI was in Atlanta last week speaking at NeighborWorks America’s National Fundraising Symposium. I really love speaking to nonprofit staff and board members who are in the trenches trying to raise money for their organizations. The same thing that happened in Atlanta always happens. The group started out tired, uninspired, worn out with fundraising. But then I started to describe Financing and the light bulb went on. And for the rest of the day when I talked with attendees, or heard them talking to each other, they would try out this new word, this new concept, “Financing.”

But it’s not just semantics. Financing is a fundamentally different approach to every aspect of a nonprofit organization. For the group in Atlanta, I laid out the five main elements of it:

  • Create A Financing Plan
    Nonprofits must create a comprehensive strategy for bringing enough, and the right kind of, money in the door to achieve their strategic goals. This includes revenue and capital, programs and infrastructure dollars, and all funding sources. Money must be understood and used as a tool, instead of feared and sequestered.

  • Connect Mission & Money
    The financial woes of many nonprofit organizations often stem from a misalignment of mission and money. A nonprofit leader who creates a financial engine for her organization that is fully connected to and supportive of its mission (instead of detracting or isolated from it) will enjoy financial sustainability.

  • Diversify Funding
    Relying on only one or two funding sources, particularly foundation grants which make up less than 2% of all the money flowing to the nonprofit sector, is a dangerous strategy in the nonprofit sector. It is far better to create a robust and diverse money mix that fits well with your nonprofit’s mission and competencies.

  • Invest Supporters
    As mounting research demonstrates, donors are increasingly looking to become engaged in the nonprofits they support. And they are looking for impact, not just a place to write a check. In order to attract these donors, nonprofits must articulate their value and convince supporters to become a partner in creating social change.

  • Find Money to Build
    The time for scraping by and never having enough money for the right technology, staff, and systems is over. Instead nonprofits must become savvy about capacity capital and start raising the money they need to build the organization their mission requires.

It is so inspiring to see people who are on the front lines of creating stronger schools, neighborhoods, communities in this country suddenly realize that it doesn’t have to be so hard. You can stop beating your head against the fundraising wall.

If you’d like to have me come speak to your event, group, board or staff about Financing not Fundraising, or any of the many topics I speak about, email

Photo Credit: billaday

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