In an update to my earlier post about FORGE, a nonprofit working with refugees in African camps to promote peace and social stability, there has been a lot of activity trying to save the organization. Some donors have stepped up and a few consultants have come forward to try to revamp their fundraising and marketing efforts. It remains to be seen whether these efforts will save the organization, but the discussions have been very interesting.
Curtis Chang, CEO of Consulting Within Reach, a San Francisco nonprofit consulting company, is working with FORGE to turn their fundraising around. He has written a really interesting post on Social Edge about how FORGE’s attempt to take the Kiva model of online microfinance and turn it into a fundraising model was fundamentally flawed. If you recall from my earlier post, FORGE’s original funding model had student volunteers responsible for fundraising for the programs they created. Earlier this year, FORGE scrapped that model and moved their fundraising to an online giving program where donors could pick projects to support. The new model has been a flop, and FORGE is $100,000 in the hole.
Curtis argues that a funding model needs to be built around the organization’s soul: what it is that they are about and do best:
A nonprofit’s funding model is not just a purely tactical decision to maximize revenue. Its strengths or flaws can’t be just the product of marketing. And the coolest website can be soulless. A fundraising model works best when it is a natural extension of the essential qualities of an organization: its founding characters, narrative, relationship to its audience – all that makes a great…story.
Its archetypical story is of Kjerstin Erickson as a 20 year old junior dropping out of Stanford to go work in refugee camps. She rallies other college students to the cause. Soon, FORGE is filled with other young, idealistic college students doing the same – and raising some key operational funds to keep FORGE growing.