Fundraising—business and art

Fundraising Business and Art from Larry C. Johnson on Vimeo.

Fundraising is often said to be both science and art.  Indeed, there are elements of both the rigor and discipline of science as well as the deft nuance of art in a successful fundraising undertaking.  When I say that fundraising is a combination of business and art I can already sense the prickly reactions.  Yet that is exactly what a successful fundraising effort is.


Yoking “art” and “business” in a common enterprise and you’ve set up the classic struggle between the program “purists” who believe that money will somehow gravitate to their efforts simply on self-evidence and the hard-nosed business-minded types who see the whole enterprise as a black-hole of good intentions.  It’s actually neither.


The program purist fears anything that smacks of balance sheets since there are so many needs to fulfill.   The hard-nosed accountant sees runaway altruists quickly exceeding their supply lines.


Effective fundraising is art when it connects to the outcomes it finances.  Fundraising is business when it reaches out to donors based upon their values and needs.  The program purist often cannot see the true potential that exists and so fits her efforts to funding.  The businessperson fears the conventional and prefers to “sell” only what has sold in the past.


When art and business are effectively united in a fundraising effort, however, the program staffer can see the true scalability of what’s possible while the businessperson understands how donors will connect to something new.


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