Saturday, January 07, 2006

"The Fundraising Guru"

The Most Successful Fundraisers
Create a Tsunami
Stephen L. Goldstein, consultant & author of 30 Days to Successful Fundraising, which is available through,, other online booksellers, and bookstores nationwide.

It is the question everyone who works for a nonprofit everywhere asks me--nationally and internationally. The head of a school in Mexico posed it during my speech to 30,000 participants in a satellite videoconference throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. A week later, professionals at a workshop in Houston asked me the same question.

So, the question: How do I write a successful proposal? Naturally! The answer: Whether you are asking for money from a foundation, corporation, government agency, or individual, the same basic principle applies: You have to create a tsunami.

The tsunami that struck Southeast Asia at the end of 2004 made headlines around the world. But what do you picture when I say tsunami? Devastation? Loss of life? Scenes of horror? Chaos? All of those terrible images, I’m sure.

But what else do you picture? People rushing to help? Exactly! There was an enormous, obvious, sudden need. No one had to write a proposal asking people to help the victims of the tsunami. Everyone could see the compelling crisis. It was right in front of their eyes. And people immediately responded generously to the urgent need for resources.

Tragically, we have the equivalent of tsunamis every day of every year, everywhere around the world. Millions of children go hungry. Millions of men and women are illiterate. Untold numbers of men, women, and children die because they drink polluted water. Countless children die because they have never received vaccinations that would cost just pennies. The list goes on and on. And yet, as devastating as these and similar circumstances are, there is rarely a sense of urgency about those situations--certainly nothing equal to the outpouring of money and assistance for victims of the 2004 tsunami.

The job of successful fundraisers is to simulate a tsunami in their proposal by following five simple criteria to create a marketable idea.

First, a strong marketable idea has context. It relates to a major, negative trend that gives it the kind of urgency we saw in the Southeast Asia tsunami.

Second, it asks for money for a clear, unique, new solution to reverse the negative trend.

Third, a strong marketable proposal seems doable. It isn’t just pie-in-the-sky. It makes financial sense.

Fourth, it inspires people. It offers more than just a solution to a problem.

Fifth, it produces measurable results. Funders look upon the money they give as investments, not just acts of charity. Successful proposals have built-in measures of effectiveness. They aim to show funders that there is a return on their investment.

So, follow the strategy of the most successful fundraisers by simulating a tsunami. It will lead to only smooth sailing for you and your organization. E-mail Stephen Goldstein your comments and questions at He'll answer you personally.#

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