There are great reasons, as a nonprofit, to look for long-term, sustainable sources of revenues, to build a business model that brings in earned income or investor capital. Philanthropic funds are so hard to come by and often so expensive to raise.
But I also see a lot of intellectually appealing arguments made by founders about not being a traditional nonprofit, when what’s really going on is that they’re just not willing to get out and fundraise. I’ve seen missions contorted and organizations drifting far away from their original purpose because a founder has decided “I’m not a fundraiser.”
The best part is: all of the best fundraisers I know also say “I’m not a fundraiser.”
(except for one, Jennifer McCrea, who is putting the mojo back into fundraising.)
Here’s the thing. Most people aren’t fundraisers. Most people find it petrifying at first. Most people fail at first, feel like they are hitting up their friends, even feel a little bit ashamed.
But the part I really, truly don’t get is how you could be willing to devote years of your life to a project but not be willing to ask people to fund it. And I don’t mean write grant proposals, I mean ask people who are philanthropically active to write a check to help make your dream possible.
So here’s my pitch: this thing that you’re willing to devote your life to? Take one month and get out of the building, knock on every door you can, and promise yourself that you won’t stop until you’re actually rejected 100 times. Keep track of the 100 rejections so it’s real and you’re making progress.
Because I’m positive you can survive 100 rejections.
Because I’m positive that even if you get rejected 100 times, your idea will get stronger by virtue of talking to all of those smart people.
And because I’m sure that if you set out to get rejected 100 times you’ll raise the money you need long before you hit 100.