Yeah, but…

It has been gratifying to learn that many people find Getting to Giving’s messages – especially its donor perspective and the four questions – useful for thinking about philanthropy and fundraising. That said, there has been some push-back too. Some people say: That’s all fine for huge development efforts, but how does it apply to my small, local fundraising needs?

During a recent interview, I was posed that very question. What advice could I offer not to a Harvard or a huge hospital but to a neighborhood wanting to build a new Little League field, at an estimated price tag of $50,000?

My response: start by identifying people who care about the project. Little League parents and other relatives were obvious targets, but others in the community also might be rallied to the cause.  While a large benefactor might be found, an emphasis on broad participation probably was more realistic … “each according to his means.”

What was needed next was a compelling explanation of why the field was needed, and why now. Depending on the audience’s sensitivities, a number of pitches – pun intended – might resonate. Perhaps a lack of playing time was discouraging to the young players. Perhaps a perfectly suited property had become available. Perhaps someone could hark back to his or her own youth experience.

Next, a demonstration of good management. Was there a sound budget for the project? Were a variety of resources – beyond individual donations – being pursued? Perhaps a lumber company in town could be convinced to donate materials or a fence company to give a substantial discount.

And, finally, how to make it a satisfying experience. For many, being part of a positive community initiative was reward enough. Make it fun! For others, a plaque honoring the father who encouraged him in his own Little League days might be the reward. Public recognition of a business contribution was, well, good for business.

The moral of the story: there is no cause too big or too small. Try it with your own special causes.

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