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February 28, 2017   |   Jim Langley

Fundraising: A Misnomer?

My most respected colleagues and I do not consider ourselves “fundraisers.” We see ourselves as professionals who help frame agreements between institutional doers and philanthropic investors. We do this by identifying philanthropists with strong track records of investing in areas that correspond with the strengths of our institutions. We signal to each investor that we seek to create a partnership of shared purpose, one that invites their time and talent, not just their treasure. We demonstrate good faith by listening first to them in an effort to understand their philanthropic objectives. When we see partnership potential, we put forward a prospectus that delineates how specific levels of investment can leverage specific institutional strengths to produce significant, sustainable societal returns. We negotiate our way to common ground, taking as many months as are necessary to create a lasting agreement. When we succeed we come away with so more than “a gift.” So I wonder: Would we not raise much more money and sustain greater support over time if we recruited and trained advancement professionals to these purposes? Are we not limiting our potential by continuing to claim, measure, and celebrate “fundraising” as our reason for being?

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