Iowa Main Street Fundraising Symposium

Finally, the long delayed Fundraising Symposium for Iowa Main Street for February during the worst snow in decades, took place instead in the sweltering heat of Des Moines on August 2. This was a great workshop for Iowa Main Street communities because IMS invited four highly experienced fundraising consultants (I was pleased to be considered in this group!) to offer the same topic for their local managers. Managers were organized in groups based on their town size and tenure in the program. I worked with the midsized towns, with populations from 5,000 to 25,000. This was a mixed group. Some towns were new to the Main Street program, while one veteran manager had been working in her community for more than twenty years! When the event was scheduled for February, I learned that most of these towns were dealing with what I call people problems—board members and others that were reluctant to raise money or did not know how. Given this complaint—it certainly is common!—I developed a series of training modules to deal with these issues in the morning of the daylong event. I am especially interested in making boards understand that interest and talent for making “the Ask” –an in person solicitation for money or support—is a learned skill. Some people are born fundraisers. Others learn it the hard way, like me. Regardless, Board members should be paired with fundraising tasks that they will actually want to undertake, and not everyone will gladly ask someone else for money.

We spent time talking about “friendraising” not fundraising as a background to the wide range of tasks used in Main Street organizations to raise money. I distributed a take home exercise meant to help board members understand the range of activities needed to raise funds, and to identify what they would feel most comfortable doing. Like trying to match a volunteer to a job, Board members must be given fundraising tasks they will actually complete rather than avoid in their fundraising role.  

Later on, we learned about aspects of developing a capital campaign or a major fundraising project in town, including an introduction to prospect research, donor cultivation and developing good prospect files to support fundraising over the long term. We did one fun role-play exercise where groups were divided into five teams, and asked to prepare a part of the five-part process for making “the Ask.” We had a lot of fun as people tried to convince Mrs. Teal (our prospect) to support a technology upgrade and history book project for a fictional Persimmon Main Street. If you are interested in learning more about this fundraising workshop, or other workshops we already do, please click here to see all of the workshops we offer