There is an old saying in fundraising that is absolutely true:  “People don’t give to causes.  People give to people with causes”.  If you think back to the number of times you have been compelled to open your heart and your wallet, it was because someone you respected, or cared about, shared with you their passion about a particular mission or cause.  Fundraising is all about relationships first.

When I was working with the Children’s Miracle Network’s, children’s hospital foundations, heading many fundraising and special events programs, we built our “friend-raising” programs (as a prelude to effective “fundraising”) around tours of the hospitals to show them first-hand the medical miracles happening every day. For most people, visiting a hospital didn’t seem like a particularly fun thing to do, especially to see ‘sick kids’!  But, when they saw the smiles on many of their faces, even some terminally-ill who were sometimes spending a good part of their young lives there instead of at home with their families and friends, it was magical! Our visitors also saw the positive enthusiasm of the highly professional, compassionate staff and physicians.  Usually when the tour was finished (many in tears) would exclaim, “Wow, that was amazing, how can I/we help”.

Raising money is the back-bone of a nonprofit organization (NPO); it is the engine that runs their programs, but certainly not the main objective. People in our country truly care about each other, despite what the nightly news sometimes has us believing!  According to Giving USA 2008, a publication of the Giving USA Foundation, American fundraising reached $360 billion in 2007…and, that’s a lot of caring!  Giving is 2.2 percent of our gross domestic product, remaining for another year above the 40-year average of 1.8 percent.  With our world becoming ever smaller due to the Internet and all the other new media, our caring for others has reached global magnitudes as well.

 So, for many, their expression of caring begins with the desire to give…whether it’s of themselves as a volunteer of time, or to open up the ol’ wallet!  But with so many organizations that all seem so worthy, how do you know if you are really making a difference?  There are many ways today that you can check out the NPO’s viability.  Go to their website, review it, are your questions answered there as to their mission and goals?  Go to such NPO donation websites as Guide Star’s Network for Good (,  GoodSearch ( and Charity Navigator (, etc.  Call the organization and ask them specifics about how their organization is structured, and the credentials of their staff, and affiliations of members of their Board. They should be very willing to address your questions.   Ask them about their ‘outcomes’…if they are a shelter for stray animals, let’s say, ask them how many animals on a yearly basis they are placing in new homes, etc.  Also, one of the key things to look for is their ‘cost of raising a dollar’.  A good rule of thumb in checking to see if the organization is running a ‘tight ship’ is to check on their revenue to expense ratio.   It should be no more than 25 cents on the dollar, otherwise their expenses are running on the high side indicating a need for better management.

 It’s also interesting to note that when giving to the NPO, individuals make up the biggest percentage of the pie by far at about 78%, with Foundations (grants) around 10%, willed gifts (bequests) and corporate gifts rounding it out with the final 12%.  Are your surprised?  We individuals carry more philanthropic clout than Bill Gates’ or Warren Buffett’s foundations combined!

 As we mentioned in last month’s column, here in the Rogue Valley, we have a very caring community with a proliferation of nonprofit organizations (over 7,700 of them now vs. 950 only 12 years ago!) all needing our assistance…and perhaps, now more than ever, we need to ‘stretch’ our own personal resources, whether it be from our own cache of time or treasure chest, to help those who so desperately need a hand up!  Search your heart for how you would like to make a difference in your world and team with an organization that is worthy of your passion!

 Carpe Diem!  Joy & Larry

 Larry and Joy are the managing directors
Marshall Fundraising Management. | 488-3121

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