Learning how to fundraise in tough economic times

For the past three years, the Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business has coached struggling Philadelphia nonprofits on attaining better fundraising skills. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I can’t think of one that isn’t struggling,” Joan Mintz Ulmer, director of marketing and communications for La Salle’s Nonprofit Center, said of the city’s financially troubled nonprofits. “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t get a call from somebody.”

The center began working on the one-day fundraising programs three years ago during the economy’s downturn, but they have been working with nonprofits for three decades.

On Friday morning, the center – along with US Airways – will host their one-day fundraising program at the Pyramid Club (1735 Market Street, 52nd floor). The year’s theme – “relationship fundraising” – centers on how to raise more money for a nonprofit by emphasizing relationships in fundraising.

They expect about 200 people to attend because, as Ulmer noted, “within 24 hours [registrations] were filled to capacity. We haven’t even promoted it.”

Ulmer pinpointed a few common issues.

Many nonprofits are reluctant to host fundraising events, which is a problem which often causes the decrease in funds.

“It’s always an unpopular subject. It’s our job to increase that comfort level,” Ulmer said. “Some people just say it’s crass to ask for money.”

Others believe if they ask for money, they will be obligated to support the other person’s cause. Also, many board members do not support their organizations financially.

“There should be 100 percent financial support by the board of directors. That shows that you truly are committed to that organization. If you don’t give yourself, then how can you possibly get somebody else to support your cause?” she said.

Another setback for many nonprofits is their lack of resources to hire a trained experienced professional in fundraising.

On Friday, a panel of six fundraising experts will discuss topics like social media, making it personal and how to maximize connections with annual donors and major contributors.

Afterward, attendees will sit down with experts in breakout group sessions for more in-depth discussions. There, the U.S. Airways group will discuss how to cultivate relationships with corporations.

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