Raising money for nonprofits has never been simple, but the current political climate has created some unique circumstances for the third sector. With budget cuts from our nation’s highest office threatening everything from Planned Parenthood to Meals on Wheels, philanthropists and nonprofit leaders have reached a point where they are facing both more adversity and more support than ever.
To help fundraising professionals and volunteers navigate the uncertainty many nonprofits are currently facing, Third Sector’s President, Jeffrey Wilcox, CFRE, will be presenting about Raising Money in a New Political Era in Los Angeles, CA on September 7. We recently sat down with our president to get a taste of what he’s planning to discuss at this event. Here’s what he had to say.
How has the current political climate affected fundraising for nonprofits?
The current political climate has had some significantly positive impacts on the fundraising profession and philanthropy. It is teaching nonprofit professionals to focus on “why their work is so important” versus focusing on exactly “what their work is.” It is helping the sector to more firmly embrace the importance of being a “cause” versus being an “organization.”
Raising money for a cause is different than funding an organization. The uncertainty that the current political climate is creating is also mobilizing volunteers and boards of directors to understand the importance of advocacy in their work. That means speaking out as citizens about what is important and what is right in their opinion. Organizations that are clear about what they stand for are enjoying increased giving so that like-minded persons can be in political alignment with others in the community who feel the same way.
How Can Nonprofits Fight For Their Causes In the Face of Adversity?
The “fight” is about taking a stronger stand and having a louder and clearer voice than in the past. Many nonprofit organizations tried to be “everything to everybody” in the hopes that they could get something for a lot of people and not anger anybody in the process. Given the current political climate, and a generational shift, the idea of fundraising is about taking a stand and raising more money, but from fewer people resulting in a more solid and sustainable base of support versus than a broad-based, less sustainable, foundation of support.
What are some effective way to advocate for causes you that need support?
Advocacy is dependent on solid fact-based messages being carried by committed people to the right venues for some prescribed action. Some concrete strategies to implementing successful advocacy include:
- Become Active On Social media. Outreach in the digital space is extremely important because it creates a powerful platform to share one’s message. Keep in mind it must be managed well so that focused messages are being delivered well and a clear call to action is issued.
- Donating money is, of course, an important form of action but it cannot stop there. Engagement is the name of the game today..
- Create a speakers bureau which is crucial in advocacy work. Train people to talk about issues and help citizens learn how to manage controversial conversation. Organizations have to help create the podiums for their people, both paid professionals and volunteers, to have audiences.
- Issue a clear “platform” highlighting the guiding principles and values of an organization is key. Putting those commitments in a the form of a pictograph or creative illustration is a great way to tell your organization’s story and illustrate the values of your cause to relevant audiences.
What are some ways to engage in productive conversation about these issues, especially with those who don’t share your political views?
The best starting place is asking the right question to start a conversation rather than making some sort of statement that will immediately place a person in a defending posture. Statements create reactions and unless someone knows exactly how the others feel, the process of productive conversation has already been significantly weakened by making pronouncements. The golden rule in advocacy is converse with curiosity. Opposing opinions teach us better ways to deliver our message; or, at the very least, teach us how to manage what to expect in ways that won’t lead to uncivilized behavior. It’s best to talk about “values” versus “stands” and to discuss where there are areas of agreement. Only through finding agreement can levels of disagreement begin to change. Nonprofit organizations must be examples of how to do this well, especially when government isn’t giving us good examples to follow.
Why is it important to keep fighting for your cause, despite tough times politically?
Nonprofit organizations have to prove a “social benefit” in order for the United States Government to give each of them a nonprofit status. Social advancement is hard work. Diverse people have diverse ideas and ideals about what social benefit actually means to each of them.
For many, keeping up the fight keeps a passion for others alive, the dream of a better community alive, and keeps the hope for a better society possible. Good advocates, however, are constantly monitoring “the fight” in order to adjust their courses of action and messages to ultimately engage more people. Those advocates also have to go through continual processes of asking themselves what’s really important and what is not; and, in the end, agree when the battle is truly over. “Fighting” is a powerful word. I’d suggest that great advocates think in terms of “pushing the envelope,” “further evolving,” “mobilizing” and “advancing” rather than “fighting” as all fights ultimately have a winner and loser.
To find out more about this event and hear Jeffery’s outlook on fundraising in the current political era in person, buy tickets for the upcoming event here. To learn more about Third Sector Company, visit our website!