On October 5, Andy Robinson will hold a workshop, Selling Social Change: Earned Income Strategies for Grassroots Groups at Foundation Center San Francisco. Andy is a fundraising guru; he provides training and consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, board development, marketing, earned income, planning, leadership development, facilitation, and train-the-trainer programs. He specializes in the needs of organizations working for human rights, social justice, artistic expression, environmental conservation, and community development. We asked Andy questions about his philosophies on fundraising, and what attendees can expect from his workshop.
Enrollment for the workshop is still available. Secure your spot today! Andy will also have copies of his book for sale at the workshop.
1. Before you were a consultant, you worked as a fundraiser in the social sector. How and why did you become a fundraiser?
My first job out of college was door to door canvassing. This is boot camp for fundraisers, because you learn pretty quickly to accept a certain amount of rejection and keep moving. I was good enough to break records, but I also spent a few memorable evenings sitting on the curb in the rain, exhausted and discouraged.
The moral of the story: It's 35 years later and I'm still a fundraiser. I even teach other people to raise money. We could list the many qualities of a good fundraiser—I vote for "listening skills"—but stamina is near the top of the list.
2. Your workshop at Foundation Center focuses on "Earned Income Strategy." Can you tell us what Earned Income Strategy is?
"Earned income" equals nonprofits charging for goods and services—especially mission-related goods and services. If you look at the various sources of nonprofit revenue, including government funding and private philanthropy, earned income is the largest by far.
3. How can nonprofits use Earned Income Strategy effectively to further their mission?
By first identifying their assets. When I say "assets," most people think of money in the bank, buildings, equipment, etc. Which is true. But assets can also include expertise, networks, relationships, organizational history and accomplishments, credibility, etc.
I'm not particularly interested in another nonprofit thrift shop. Rather, I admire organizations that find ways to charge for what they know and what they do. We will discuss several examples in the workshop.
4. Making money for one's organization can sometimes cause us to feel far away from the reasons we joined the social sector--what advice do you have for folks who feel like it's hard to keep their real goals and ideals in mind when fundraising gets in the way?
We have to remember that money is neither good nor evil. It's just a tool we need to do our work. There are corrupt ways to get money, and stupid ways to spend it, but don't blame the money.
Most nonprofit people have bifurcated brains. On one side: programs, advocacy, social change, etc. On the other side: fundraising, finances, organizational development and so on. A lot of my work is encouraging people to break down that barrier. Fundraising is community organizing, building a power base for your work, testing your messages, doing market research, and creating sustainability.
The sooner we can get rid of this false distinction between fundraising and "the real work," the better.
5. Your workshops are really engaging, dynamic, and participatory. What can attendees expect from this upcoming workshop? What tools will they walk away with?
Thanks, I try! Our main goal is to help participants identify what they HAVE and what they know within their organizations, and then to identify ideas for charging for those assets.
One of the challenges of living in a capitalist economy is that people value what they pay for. When we give our work away, people perceive it to be less valuable. Saying this differently: if you can identify ways to charge for your programs and services—even a nominal amount—you might get better outcomes.
Join Andy Robinson for this special program @ Foundation Center San Francisco on October 5th! There is no cost to attend. Register here today!