General fundraising: November 2007 Archives

November 19, 2007

Socially Responsible Gift-Giving Begins at Home

After years of trying to convince my family that I don't need any holiday gifts -- including all my protests that my house is too small for more stuff, that buying things I don't need is just a waste of precious resources, and more -- I've finally given up. They seem to just love to wrap stuff and put it under the tree.

But, there's progress to report. I've gotten them to agree to "guidelines." (I know, this sounds awfully authoritarian for the joyful world of gift-giving, but that last box of tchotchkes pushed me to the wall.)

I've asked that all gifts to me -- and gifts I buy for others -- be purchased from either a nonprofit, an individual artist or craftperson, or a thrift store. That should allow for plenty of wrapped items under the tree, while doing some social good at the same time.

Now I just have to abide by the rules myself! I'm off to a good start with my dad. (Dad, ifParrot quilt you're reading this, stop now.) I found a nice-looking Ralph Lauren tie at a thrift store for $1.36, with tax. I'm sure he won't be offended, since he was making wisecracks about taking the paintings off their walls and wrapping them for me. The upcoming KPFA crafts fair -- from which the quilt image at the right comes -- should take care of the rest of the family.

And here's a late-breaking confession: I've already started issuing caveats. Like socks. I need them, and not from a thrift store. And a friend pointed out to me that books from independent booksellers should count -- in fact, you can get a gift card from Book Sense that lets you redeem it at any independent bookseller, but NOT at the big chains.

Still, I'm hopeful that we'll work out the details eventually. And maybe by next year, we'll all have realized that it's easier to simply donate trees or goats in another person's name. But one step at a time.

November 12, 2007

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea book coverIf your book club hasn't read this yet -- Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Relin -- it soon will. And if that makes you feel like part of a herd, don't fight it, particularly if you spend some of your time fundraising for a cause.

First off, the book will make you feel like all your suffering is small potatoes next to what Greg Mortenson has gone through in his efforts to build coed schools in forgotten rural regions of Pakistan. Stayed up late trying to meet a grant deadline? Try being jerked out of bed at 2 a.m. by an AK-47 toting Wazir who imprisons you for several days (with no explanation) and interrogates you before -- surprise! -- making a donation.

Not getting the response rate you'd like to your appeal letters? Mortenson started out (with no fundraising experience) hand typing hundreds of letters to every rich or famous person he could think of. Only after he'd been shown how to use a computer and sent out 580 letters did he get one response -- $100 from Tom Brokaw.

Or do you ever feel like no one's listening? Among the many fundraising slide shows Mortenson gave was one at a sports store where only two people showed up to listen -- but one of them made a $20,000 donation.

Beyond that, the book is just plain inspiring. It shows how someone with a deep commitment can make a difference in the face of absurd odds. But I'm sure your book club will talk about that!

And if you need some more practical inspiration for your nonprofit's fundraising efforts, check out the upcoming second edition of my book, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work (Nolo).