Event helps nonprofit with fundraising letters


POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2009

Community Links Hawaii took an internal idea and turned it into an external event to help as many Hawaii nonprofits as possible raise funds for the coming year.

CLH, a nonprofit incubator, is inviting nonprofits to come to the Hawaii State Art Museum from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to get peer-to-peer and professional help to improve their end-of-year fundraising letters.

It may help to know that Community Links Hawaii serves as a parent nonprofit to some fledgling nonprofit groups serving a need in the community that is not already being addressed. It works with them to formulate business plans and manage their funding, and helps them “;make as large an impact as possible, (while) getting them to a point where they can sustain themselves and spin off into an independent organization,”; said Josh Levinson, president and chief executive officer.

It is incubating 22 such groups.

CLH also connects people with a passion to serve to organizations already working in that area.

The letter-tweaking event was initially planned for the 22 CLH incubees, but “;then we realized how much fun and (how) productive it would be to invite a much broader group,”; he said.

Conventional wisdom says nonprofits are “;competing for a finite pot of money,”; so the event might seem counterintuitive. “;But really, the truth is that if everybody does a better job of reaching their respective constituencies, everybody will make more money.”;

His own experience dictates that having others read his draft fundraising letters has made the final product better.

“;The better the letter, the bigger the impact, the more people are inclined to give,”; he said.

It also might seem counterintuitive to reveal one's own organization's secret strengths or potential shortcomings to another person or organization.

“;My philosophy has always been, in the nonprofit sector ... very unlike in the for-profit sector, the more collaborative you are, the more successful you can be,”; Levinson said.

Several nonprofits doing similar work and competing for the same grants can “;team up and go after much larger grants, because they will have larger capacity,”; he said.

Attendees will be paired up “;to spend time on each person's letter and then they'll switch partners,”; Levinson said. “;We're also going to have roving fundraising and communications experts”; helping the nonprofit pairings with their wordsmithing.

The experts are members of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations and the Association of Fundraising Professionals as well as widely known public relations practitioners.

Levinson terms the event a “;great experiment”; in helping everybody help themselves.

Community Links Hawaii

If it is successful, and people feel good about the experience and the results of “;work-shopping the letters,”; Community Links Hawaii will do it again next year.

Interested organizations should RSVP via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by Monday, because space is limited. Organizations' representatives should bring five to 10 copies of their fundraising letters to the event.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).