Grapes grow best in bunches

I just came from an non-profit summit, hosted by an local chamber of commerce.  And while at first, we might think, “Hey, we are all after the same corporate, individual and institutional dollars.  I compete with all the groups here…”  I think that instead…

Grapes grow best in bunches.


I think non-profits who network together and build on their strengths are in the end stronger, healthier and able to still reach their funders.  Many years ago, I started a theatre alliance.  Sure, we were in a small town and “competed” for ticket sales, but we learned that we could actually reach more audience members together AND they attended all of our shows. Well, not all of them.  But we did see cross-over in our sales reports.

We were in competition with our audience member’s remote control at home. Not each other. 

PLUS, it made for much needed monthly get lunches or happy hours (or both?! Wait, no…) where we could really share what we were going through together.

Here’s to reaching out to the best varietals out there and making friends.




It’s Wednesday and I have to admit… I LOVE running reports.  I am not a numbers person.  I don’t like paying bills.  I am no accountant. I would rather be out playing in the sun, riding my bike, scuba diving, getting a root canal.  But by Wednesday I just have to run reports, as many as possible, and stare for long hours at our donor statistics.

Yes, all good fundraisers use metrics to make decisions.  But I am starting to think I would rather stare at my numbers than pick up the phone.  I mean, it’s time.  Major donor cultivation, set up visits, get on the phone with board members time.

Reminds me of cleaning my room when I should be doing homework.

I write about this:

  • to let other fundraisers know they are not alone if they feel this way.
  • to put off picking up the phone, or running more reports. I really love the SYBNTY.  And I am a real sucker for % of attrition over a three year period.


Report Photo


Okay, whining complete.  I am now going to do that incredibly important major donor stuff.  I’ll report back how it goes.  I’ll even run you a report.

So.. why am I doing this? First irreverent thoughts…

I did not start out raising money.  In fact I am an expert at spending it.  Personally, professionally, other people’s money… I excel.  And after twenty years working in and around the non-profit sector as an actor, concert promoter, venue manager, volunteer coordinator, education director, curriculum developer, director, teacher…. there’s more…. oh… and most recently, and importantly… Development Director.  I raise money for a living.  And I like it.

I remember, in previous jobs where artistic programming was my focus, that I just needed one of those…  what do they call them… oh…development people… they developed…or something… they waived magic wands and money appeared for my programs.  Right?  I should just hire one of those.  Hmm… I also followed the “I’ll fundraise on Friday method.”  This ensured that I never, ever got around to it.  Grants… they could wait.  Sponsorship.  It just wasn’t a priority.  And worse.  I had no training.

So, when I left a job I loved very much (bad breakup– counseling was required) I decided I needed to learn to raise money.  I had a bunch of rebound jobs following that experience.  I had no idea that your could suffer heart break professionally, but you can.  And there is light on the other side.

Now, many years later, I had this crazy thought.  What if someone just needed a hand to hold while they achieved their development goals.  And why not?

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER!  I AM NO EXPERT.  In fact, some days, I really wonder how I do anything.  Have I mentioned I work full-time and have a three year old?

So, read on, if you dare.  Just know I can provide a hand.  And MAYBE, something that might help.

Step 1.  Do what others do.  Seriously.  Get a book.  Get three.  Oh… read them.

Step 2.  One week class in San Francisco with the Foundation Center.  Seriously.  And that’s when I turned the corner.

Step 3.  End up in charge of raising $900K of a $6 million dollar budget.  Find out the goals are INSANE.  Find out that no matter how hard you try, you are SCREWED.  Leave job.  But not before gaining a million great skills and friends for life.

Step 4:  Do what others do.  Read their blogs.  And stop being afraid.  After all, you are not alone and I have extended a hand.

Step 5:  Get a great job at a non-profit with realistic goals.  Or change how you think about your current position. I’ll post a lot more about this.  But know it can be done.

More soon.  Please leave comments.  I hope to create a small, but crazy community here.  See you on the flip side.  Of something….