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February 9, 2011
How a Community Engagement Strategy Resulted in $208.8 Million Dollars
February 24, 2011

A Fundraising Fairy Tale: What Would You Do with $5 Million?

You’re at your desk.  It’s December – you’re coming down the home stretch.  The fundraising year is almost over.  Suddenly the phone rings.  On the other end is a Google employee who tells you that the company’s charitable gift fund has money to give away by the end of the year.  Would you, the Google employee asks, be able to put together a proposal for up to $5 million?  And could you do it in 24 hours?

This really happened to Nature Bridge, an environmental education organization based in San Francisco, California.  And they did put the proposal together and they got a gift of $4 million.  Their entire annual budget was only $3 million!  There was no special relationship, no years of cultivation.  The story goes that Google had $20 million to give at the end of the year and someone in the company had heard of Nature Bridge.  Is that a fundraising fairy tale or what?

Indeed, most of us will never have the thrill of getting such a call.  But just in case….

What would YOU do?  Would you know how to respond to such a request?  Whether you are a small or large, $5 million is a lot of money to absorb.  Would you be able to say what you would spend it on that would move your current strategy forward exponentially?

It occurs to me that this is an exercise that we all should go through.  We should all – program, administrative, and fundraising people — know what that big reach is for us.  And, OK, maybe it’s not a $5 million proposal (or maybe for some of you it is!), but maybe it’s just putting that kind of strategic thought into what would really move the needle; what would really make the difference?

So try it.  Yeah, it’s a fairy tale.  You’ll probably never get that call from Google, but your real-life donors want to know how their money is making a difference and you can inspire each and every one of them with a big, inspirational vision of the future.  You never know who’s on the other end of that phone…

Here’s a link to the press release if you’re interested in the program details.

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