Secret to success:
Fundraising. It’s a reality that all non-profit – and some for-profit – organizations must face. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to have spent such a large chunk of this summer looking for funding. Searching for foundations, typing up solicitation letters, cultivating donors…the routine began to get old, especially when my thoughts turned to the slim chances of snagging a hefty sum.
Social enterprises, socially-minded businesses, or whatever we call these waves of innovation that the Starr Fellowship fosters – they might theoretically be able to turn a profit and self-sustain. It’s easy to think, or hope, that the burden of fundraising is left to unquestionably charitable organizations like UNICEF and the American Cancer Society.
The Capital Good Fund, for example, is different from these: it’s a microfinance institution. It’s the trendy new poverty alleviation tool that will eliminate the global need for charity. Right?
But when it comes down to it, CGF is still a non-profit organization. “Turning a profit” is not exactly a part of its mission statement. The fact that I’d end up fundraising this summer seems, in retrospect, quite obvious.
As I practiced my elevator pitch and drafted LOIs until CGF’s catch phrases became ingrained in my memory, I did some soul-searching. Why was I not spending my days out of the office, meeting CGFs borrowers, getting my proverbial hands dirty and feeling truly productive? I’m still figuring out the answer. One thing I’ve realized is that productivity rarely happens without money. People like the Starr fellows might be motivated by less monetary incentives, but we need others to get substantial things done. Or maybe we don’t, but working alone, progress would come only through intense, full-time labor – with no income, how would we survive? I’m realizing that every non-profit organization, even microfinance institutions, needs to actively seek donors. Though it seems disconnected from social missions, fundraising really does enable all the impact that we might have.
Is fundraising the root of all social work? To get to it, will I drop everything and aspire to become a professional grant-writer? I can’t quite see myself heading in that direction, but after this summer I certainly have a newfound admiration for those who do.
Julie Siwicki, Capital Good Fund