In this recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the executive director of a San Francisco nonprofit called Watsi describes his company's experiment with doing all their fundraising for the entire year in three months.
We decided to try something crazy. Instead of perpetually fundraising, we set out to raise a defined round of donations, taking an approach similar to companies that raise rounds of investment. Our goal was to raise $600,000 in three months. With that, we’d be able to hire six people and meet our organizational goal of funding health care for 2,000 patients over a two-year period.
We had no idea if our approach would work. But we agreed that regardless of how much we raised, we would stop fundraising after three months and go back to working on Watsi full time, even if it meant employing two people instead of six.
He says they raised twice their goal and served twice as many people as they had projected. He recounts how this approach affected how they did fundraising, but he also explains that for the rest of the year, it allowed them to focus on programs.
When we started our fundraising efforts (before we tried raising a round), we had no idea how long it might take to reach the target we set for ourselves. That made it nearly impossible to prioritize fundraising alongside everything else we needed to do. We didn’t know if we were running a sprint or a marathon. As a result, we erratically switched between fundraising mode and work mode, and we failed at both.
I've never seen another nonprofit try this approach to fundraising, and I see some potential pitfalls, but I do see a lot of you with smaller staffs struggling with the dynamic above.
Questions to think about:
- Have you ever tried something like this? Tell me (and the rest of us) about your experience here: https://www.facebook.com/narratoronline/posts/998271873536676
- What ideas can you draw from his approach to improve your own fundraising strategy?